Egyptian authorities arrested Hossam Moanis, a reporter and member of the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate, in 2019 and in 2021 he was sentenced to four years in prison on false news charges.
Moanis writes for several opposition outlets, including Al-Karama, according to the privately owned news website Noonand one of Moanis’ lawyers, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation. Moanis has a blog and freelanced for the local independent newspaperAl-Tahrir. He is also a former spokesperson for the 2014 election campaign of politician and former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, according to a Facebook post by press freedom advocate Khaled el-Balshy and Noon.
Police arrested Moanis at his Cairo home at dawn on June 25, 2019, and took him to an unknown destination on the same day that authorities arrested Fouad, according to local news reports.
An Interior Ministry statement, published later that day by the state owned newspaper Al-Ahram, said Moanis 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 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 “Hope Plan,” according to local news reports.
Hours after his arrest, Moanis 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.
On July 2, 2019 the state security prosecutor froze the assets of, and banned 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 the public prosecutor. On July 4, 2019, a judge upheld the decision, according to local news reports.
Prosecutors repeatedly extended his pre-trial detention for 45-day periods, according to a report by regional rights group the Regional Center for Rights and Liberties.
On November 17, 2021, the Misdemeanors State Security Emergency Court in Cairo sentenced Moanis to four years in prison and fined him 500 Egyptian pounds (US$30) for allegedly spreading false news in Egypt and abroad, according to news reports. The verdict cannot be appealed, according to news reports.
Moanis still faces anti-state charges for which he has not yet been tried, according to news reports and a press freedom advocate who is familiar with the case and spoke to CPJ via messaging app on the condition of anonymity citing fear of reprisal. Anti-state convictions in Egypt can carry a range of sentences depending on the ruling, including life in prison and even death, according to the Egyptian penal code.
Moanis was held in poor conditions, along with his colleague Fouad 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 2021 these conditions had not changed, Yousef told CPJ via messaging app.
Between March and August 2020, visits to prisons were banned by the interior ministry as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, according to news reports.
Fady Eskandar, a friend of Moanis who spoke with CPJ via messaging app in September 2021, said Moanis’ mother was able to visit him in late August. The journalist’s mother told Eskandar that Moanis is in good health.
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 Moanis in September 2021.