Mohamed Hussein Gomaa, an Egyptian reporter based in Qatar, has been detained since December 2016. A court in May 2019 ordered his release, but he was ordered back into pretrial detention a few days later as part of a new investigation.
Police initially arrested Gomaa on December 23, 2016, according to Al-Jazeera. Officials questioned Gomaa on December 20 when he arrived in Egypt on a family visit from Qatar, where he was based, according to reports.
Egypt’s Interior Ministry confirmed in a December 25, 2016 statement published on its website that Gomaa was being held on charges of "incitement against state institutions and broadcasting false news with the aim of spreading chaos." The ministry said that Gomaa worked with Al-Jazeera to produce fake documentaries about the country’s institutions. Authorities ordered him to initially be detained for 15 days pending investigation, Al-Jazeera reported. In a statement on its website, Al-Jazeera described the charges against Gomaa as fabricated and said that it was concerned for his safety.
The arrest came after Al-Jazeera broadcast a documentary, "Al-Asaker" (The Soldiers), in November 2016, about conscription in Egypt. The documentary was criticized in Egypt by government officials and local media, who said that it attempted to incite against the armed forces and alleged that it used fake footage.
On December 25, 2016, pro-government and state-run media broadcast police videos of Gomaa that they described as confessions. A narrator in one of the interviews, which were filmed in several locations, claimed that the videos showed evidence against Gomaa. Two of the videos showed him standing by production equipment that he said Al-Jazeera asked him to keep in his family’s homes after the broadcaster was forced to close its Egyptian office in 2013.
The journalist’s detention was repeatedly renewed every 45 days, according to the local press freedom group Journalists Against Torture and a social media post from Al-Jazeera director Yasser Abu Hilalah. Some lawyers and pro-government media in Egypt say that under the law, national security prosecutors can repeatedly renew detention periods until a trial begins.
On May 21, 2019, a Cairo criminal court ordered Gomaa to be released on probation, according to Al-Jazeera and the Arab Media Freedom Monitor. On May 27, while his release was being processed, and in the absence of his lawyer, authorities took Gomaa back to Tora Prison, according to Al-Jazeera and the Arab Media Freedom Monitor. He was detained as part of a new investigation but as of late 2019, no new charges had been disclosed, the reports said.
CPJ could not determine if the new investigation is related to the original accusations.
Since August 5, 2019, Cairo’s Prosecutor Office has repeatedly extended Gomaa’s pretrial detention period by 15 days, according to the local press freedom group the Egyptian Observatory for Journalism and Media.
The journalist’s daughter, Aya Mahmoud, told CPJ in October 2017 that prison authorities denied the journalist medical care for a fractured wrist that needs surgery.
The injury has not healed properly because Gomaa has not received medical attention, one of his daughters, al-Zahraa Gomaa, told CPJ in 2019. She added that in mid-September, prison authorities denied Gomaa’s request for a furlough to visit his dying father.
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.