Police arrested freelancer Ahmed al-Sakhawy at his home in downtown Cairo on September 25, 2017, local media reported and his fiancée, Shorouk Amgad, confirmed to CPJ at the time. The journalist’s family did not know his whereabouts until he was arraigned on October 23, 2017, according to news reports and Amgad.
Homeland prosecutors, who handle national security cases, charged al-Sakhawy with “disseminating false news” and “belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood,” according to news reports and Amgad. The Egyptian government declared the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization in 2013.
CPJ was unable to determine if the prosecutors cited specific reports as evidence.
Al-Sakhawy, a photojournalist and camera operator who previously covered politics for opposition newspapers including al-Masreyoun and el-Dyar, denied the accusations, Amgad said. He stopped working for the outlets about three weeks before his arrest so that he could look for more permanent employment, and also continued to work as a freelancer, Amgad said.
Al-Sakhawy’s lawyer Mokhtar Mounir told CPJ in late November 2017 that in court, the journalist said that police tortured him to force him to confess that he worked for TV channels owned by the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Sakhawy also managed to pass a note to his family that said he was being tortured and denied medication, Amgad said.
Amgad told CPJ in 2017 that al-Sakhawy, who was 22 at the time of his arrest, was weak and had lost weight in custody. When the family saw him after a hearing on November 21, 2017 the journalist’s arms were bandaged where he had attempted to take his life, according to news reports.
The journalist is being held in Cairo’s Scorpion maximum security prison, according to news reports and Amgad. Scorpion prison is usually reserved for those convicted of a serious crime. His family is barred from visiting him, and they see al-Sakhawy only when police transfer him for court hearings, Amgad said. Prosecutors repeatedly renewed his pre-trial detention period, according to news reports and Amgad.
On April 28, 2018, a Cairo criminal court ordered al-Sakhawi to be released on probation, but the next day the court accepted a national security prosecutor’s appeal to keep the journalist in custody, according to news reports. The case was ongoing in late 2018, according to the local press freedom group Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms.
As of late 2018, Egypt’s Ministry of Interior, which has oversight of the police and prison system, had not responded to CPJ’s emailed request for a comment or updates in his case.
The journalist’s fiancée, Amgad, who is a freelance photographer, was arrested on April 25, 2018, along with two of her friends in Cairo, according to the Arab Network of Human Rights Information (ANHRI). The next day, a Nasr City national security prosecutor ordered her to be detained, Israa Al-Kurdi, a lawyer, told Mada Masr. The lawyer said her support of al-Sakhawi, as well as her journalism, could be the reason for her arrest.