Freelance journalist and researcher Ismail Alexandrani is serving a 7-year sentence after a military court convicted him of obtaining and publishing military secrets, joining a banned group, and spreading false news abroad.
Alexandrani, whose work focuses on the Sinai Peninsula and Islamist movements in Egypt, was arrested at Hurghada airport upon his return from Berlin on November 29, 2015. He was questioned by national security agents in Hurghada before being transferred to Cairo two days later, his wife Khadeega Gaafar, told CPJ.
On December 1 and 7, 2015, homeland security prosecutors questioned Alexandrani for more than nine hours and charged him with belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, promoting the purposes of that group, and intentionally disseminating false information, according to local rights groups and statements made by Alexandrani’s lawyers, who were present for the questioning. The journalist was interrogated again by national security officers inside Tora prison later that month.
Alexandrani was held in pretrial detention that prosecutors repeatedly renewed until he was referred to military prosecution in December 2017, according to his lawyer Mokhtar Mounir, the independent news website Mada Masr, and local rights group Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression.
Tarek Abdel Aal, a lawyer representing Alexandrani, told Mada Masr on May 22, 2018, that a military court convicted Alexandrani of obtaining and publishing military secrets, joining a banned organization, and publishing false news abroad, and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. The court did not present evidence backing the charges, according to Abdel Aal.
Alexandrani has written critically of the Egyptian military’s efforts to combat extremist militias in the Sinai Peninsula, including for independent newspapers Al-Safir and Al-Modon, both based in Lebanon. He has also written for the Egyptian newspaper Al-Badil.
Alexandrani was a visiting fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program in Washington, D.C., in the spring of 2015. After leaving the U.S., he moved to Turkey and gave several talks in Berlin and other European cities. The journalist knew he risked arrest for his writing upon returning to Egypt, but was compelled to return for a family emergency, according to a statement by one of his friends on Facebook, which CPJ reviewed but was since taken down.
On May 18, 2021, prison authorities denied Alexandrani furlough to attend his mother’s funeral, according to the journalist’s friend who spoke with CPJ. According to a family member who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, the journalist started to suffer from depression and diabetes after his mother’s death, and prison authorities denied him medical attention.
On October 17, 2022, a military appeals court reduced Alexandrani’s prison sentence to 7 years, making him due for release on November 30, 2022, according to news reports. As of December 1, 2022, the deadline for inclusion in CPJ’s prison census, he was not released, according to a source who spoke with CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
The journalist had no other court hearings in 2022 and remained in Tora prison, the family member told CPJ, adding that family members were allowed to visit him on a monthly basis.
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 about Alexandrani’s case in September 2022.