Mohamed Abu Zeid, a photographer for the Tahrir news website, remains in custody despite at least four courts ordering his release in 2019. The journalist was arrested in June 2018 on charges of joining a banned group and spreading false news.
Zeid turned himself in to authorities on June 7, 2018, after police raided his house in May, his lawyer Nour Fahmy, who also works with the Arab Network of Human Rights Information (ANHRI), told Mada Masr.
Cairo’s national security prosecutor on June 24, 2018, ordered the journalist to be detained on charges of "membership of a banned group" and spreading false news, according to the local press freedom group Egyptian Observatory for Journalism and Media (EOJM). The prosecutor did not say what photographs or content led to the charges.
Abu Zeid’s work with Tahrir included coverage of court proceedings against the former head of the journalists’ syndicate, local crime trials, and cultural events.
Abu Zeid was one of several journalists arrested as part of a larger crackdown and included in a mass trial known as case 441, in which all the defendants are charged with spreading false news and "membership 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 February 9, 2019 and March 26, a court extended Abu Zeid’s pretrial detention period by 45 days, according to a researcher from a local press freedom group, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation.
On May 11, a Cairo criminal court ordered Abu Zeid’s release from detention, but on May 13, the court accepted a prosecutor’s appeal to keep him for an extra 45 days, according to EOJM.
Abu Zeid’s release has been ordered four times by different Cairo courts, including on September 17. Following that order, a court on September 20 accepted a prosecutor’s appeal to keep him in detention, according to EOJM and the local rights group Regional Center for Rights and Liberties.
CPJ’s messages to Abu Zeid’s family in late 2019 went unanswered.
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.