Islam Gomaa, a freelance photojournalist who contributed to the Veto news website, has been in custody since June 2018 on charges of joining a banned group and spreading false news charges. A court in 2019 ordered his release from prison but the journalist remains behind bars.
Police arrested Gomaa at his home in Giza on June 29, 2018, his lawyer Nour Fahmy told the local news website Katib. On August 7, the journalist appeared in front of a prosecutor for the first time on charges of belonging to a banned group and spreading false news, his lawyer said.
Gomaa covered cultural and sports events, including public funerals, for Veto. Fahmy told Katib on September 18, 2018, that Veto presented to the national security prosecutor a letter confirming he worked with them. In January 2017, Gomaa won an award named after the Egyptian photojournalist Shawkan, for a picture of the funeral for victims of the December 2016 Botroseya Church bombing at St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church in Cairo, according to news reports.
The prosecutor did not specify what photographs or content led to the charges, according to Egyptian Observatory for Journalism and Media (EOJM).
On October 17, 2018, Eman Hamed, the lawyer representing Gomaa, filed an appeal on Gomaa’s behalf to the national security prosecutor demanding his release. She told CPJ there was nothing in the investigation to justify the charges.
Gomaa was one of several journalists arrested as part of a larger crackdown and mass trial known as case 441, in which dozens of defendants in a mass trial face charges of spreading false news and being a member of a banned group. The trial came as Egypt’s crackdown on the press deepened in 2018; authorities ratcheted up their rhetoric against media outlets as President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ran for and won re-election.
On August 18, a court ordered Gomaa to be released, along with the journalist Mohamed Abu Zeid. Before he could be released, a court on August 20 accepted a prosecutor’s appeal to keep him in detention for an extra 45 days, according to EOJM and the regional group, Arab Network for Human Rights Information. The journalist’s pretrial detention was extended again on September 25, according to the same groups.
As of late 2019, the Ministry of Interior, which has oversight of the police and prison system, and the prosecutor general’s office had not answered CPJ’s emails requesting comment.
The journalist is detained in Tora prison, according to EOJM.