Police arrested freelancer Ahmed al-Sakhawy at his home in downtown Cairo on September 25, 2017, local media reported and his fiancée, Sheruet Amgad, confirmed to CPJ. The journalist’s family did not know his whereabouts until he was arraigned on October 23, 2017, according to news reports and his fiancée.
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 his fiancée. 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 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.
As of December 1, 2017, Egypt’s Ministry of Interior, which has oversight of the police and prison system, did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.
Amgad told CPJ that al-Sakhawy, who is 22, is weak and has lost weight in custody. When the family saw him after a hearing on November 21, 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 his fiancée. 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 have repeatedly renewed his pre-trial detention for increments of 15 days, according to news reports and his fiancée.
As of late 2017 no trial date was set.