Hisham Fouad Mohamed AbdelHalim, a columnist and member of the Syndicate of Journalists, is charged with belonging to a terrorist group and spreading false news, as part of a trial of 15 defendants including the columnist Hossam Moanis, activist Zyad el-Elaimy, and others. The journalist, who is known as Hisham Fouad, have been in Cairo’s Tora prison pending trial since June 2019.
Fouad is a press freedom advocate who also covers workers’ rights for the Egyptian news websites Mada Masr, where he is a freelance columnist, and Masr al-Arabeya. The journalist is also a member of the left-leaning Socialist Revolutionary movement and reports for the Russian news agency Sputnik, according to the privately owned news website Noon.
Police arrested Fouad at his Cairo home at dawn on June 25, 2019, and took him to an unknown destination on the same day that authorities arrested journalist Hossam Moanis, according to local news reports. An Interior Ministry statement, published later that day by the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram, said that Fouad was arrested for “communicating with the leaders of the banned terrorist group the Muslim Brotherhood” and “fleeing abroad to implement a plan they called “Hope Plan.” The statement described “Hope Plan” as an attempt to overthrow the state and its institutions ahead of the June 30 anniversary of the uprising that toppled the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013. Authorities arrested dozens of dissidents on June 25 for alleged involvement in the plan, according to local news reports.
Hours after his arrest, Fouad was brought before the state security prosecutor for questioning on charges of involvement with a terrorist group and publishing false news, according to local news reports. The Ministry of Interior statement mentioned charges of false news but did not cite specific articles of Fouad’s.
On July 2, 2019, the state security prosecutor issued an order freezing the assets of, and banning from travel, Fouad, Moanis, and over 80 others accused of being part of “Hope Plan,” according to a letter that Amnesty International addressed to the Office of Public Prosecutor. On August 4, a judge upheld the decision, according to local news reports.
At a hearing on August 21, 2019 Fouad said he believed he was being punished because of his political writing and membership in the journalists’ syndicate, according to a Facebook post advocating on his behalf under the name Free Hisham Fouad.
After Fouad’s arrest, state prosecutors renewed his pretrial detention period by 15 days multiple times, according to the local rights group the Regional Center for Rights and Liberties. According to a colleague who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal, prosecutors more recently extended his pretrial detention by 45-day periods, including on July 25, 2020. Authorities did not bring any new charges against Fouad in the past year, according to the same colleague.
According to a July 13, 2019 letter by Fouad’s wife, Madeeha Hassan, published by the Free Hisham Fouad Facebook solidarity group, the prison did not deliver supplies and food that Hassan had sent to her husband. Fouad was also held in poor conditions, along with his colleague Moanis and the former parliamentarian el-Elaimy, according to a July 9, 2019 Facebook statement by Ekram Yousef, the mother of el-Elaimy. Yousef said that for the first 14 days of their detention authorities prevented them from going out or exercising; the prisoners slept on wooden boards, without mattresses or pillows. As of late 2020 these conditions had not changed, Yousef told CPJ via messaging app.
On March 10, 2020, the Ministry of Interior banned visitors, including family members and lawyers, from entering prisons as a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19; as of August 22, visitors are allowed on a limited basis, according to news reports. On September 17, Fouad’s wife, Madeeha Hassan, visited him in prison for the first time since the ban was imposed, according to Fouad’s colleague. Fouad suffers from stomach pain and asked his wife to send him medication, Fouad’s colleague, who is in touch with Hassan, told CPJ.
The Ministry of Interior, which oversees the police, the prison system, and the prosecutor general’s office, did not answer CPJ’s emails requesting comment on Fouad’s case in September 2020.