Rassd Executive Director Abdullah al-Fakharany was arrested on August 25, 2013, in the home of the son of a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Rassd co-founder Samhi Mustafa and Amgad TV presenter Mohamed al-Adly were arrested with him.
In February 2014, the three were charged with “spreading chaos” and “forming an operations room to direct the Muslim Brotherhood to defy the government” during the dispersal of the sit-in at Raba’a Al-Adawiya in Cairo, where Egyptians had gathered to protest the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. The dispersal left hundreds dead, according to news reports. The Egyptian government has declared the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization.
The prosecutor-general accused the Muslim Brotherhood of using several media outlets, including Rassd and Amgad TV, to support its plot to take over the government and spread lies about the military and the government.
Ahmed Helmy, Mustafa’s lawyer, denied all of the charges against the journalists.
A Cairo criminal court sentenced all three journalists to life in prison on April 11, 2015. They were tried along with dozens of other defendants, including prominent leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. Life sentences in Egypt are 25 years long, according to news reports.
The Egyptian Court of Cassation accepted the request for an appeal on December 3, 2015, on the basis that there was insufficient evidence for the conviction, according to news reports.
On May 8, 2017, a Giza criminal court reduced the sentence to five years on appeal, the journalist’s brother, Mohamed al-Fakharany told CPJ.
The same month, a Cairo criminal court listed al-Fakharany, Mustafa, and al-Adly on the country’s “terrorism list,” according to news reports. Under Egypt’s counterterrorism law, approved by President el-Sisi in August 2015, individuals convicted of or facing terror charges can be listed on the “terrorism list.” Those listed are banned, for five years from travelling, renewing passports, and working in the public sector. They are also subject to an asset freeze.
In August 2017, the Free Abdullah al-Fakharany campaign published a statement from the journalist in which he said that because authorities added him to the terror list he has nothing to look forward to on his release. Al-Fakharany said that his plans to apply for a fellowship abroad and his career ambitions were now “a mirage.”
In a letter from prison that was publicized on May 3, 2015, World Press Freedom Day, al-Fakharany described being beaten and abused in custody.
Al-Fakharany is being held in an intensive security prison in Tora prison complex, southeast of Cairo. He has swelling in his Achilles tendon, preventing him from squatting to use the prison bathroom, according to the Free Abdullah al-Fakharany campaign. The journalist has dental problems that he refuses to have treated in the prison clinic because it is “decorated by sewage water,” according to a campaign Facebook post citing al-Fakharany.