El-Battawy was arrested by security forces after they raided his house in the village of Tokh in the Qalyubiya governorate, just north of Cairo. Security forces seized el-Battawy’s mobile phone, his hard drive, and his personal books and papers, according to news reports. They did not present a warrant or give a reason for his arrest.
El-Battawy was a journalist with the state-owned daily Akhbar al-Youm. He wrote opinion pieces for independent outlets such as Masr al-Arabia and was frequently critical of the state’s violence against anti-government protesters and its crackdown on the media. His writing was sometimes satirical. Some of the outlets he has written for, such as opposition newspaper el-Shaab el-Jadeed and Masr al-Arabia, say they have been targets of smear campaigns by government-aligned media, who accuse them of belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Police have visited the Masr al-Arabia offices on more than one occasion, in what are described as “routine” inspections.
Two weeks after el-Battawy’s arrest, his outlet Akhbar al-Youm published a report claiming that Masr al-Arabia secretly served as a “media militia” for the Muslim Brotherhood. Masr Al-Arabia Editor-in-Chief Adel Sabry denied the allegations and pointed out factual errors in the report. Akhbar al-Youm published his denial in a statement in its print edition on July 25, 2015.
The journalist’s family and lawyers were unable to locate him for five days after his arrest. He was not at Tokh police station, where security forces had told the family they would take him. The Egyptian Journalist’s Syndicate issued a statement saying it had filed a complaint to the general prosecutor on the family’s behalf, demanding to know the journalist’s whereabouts.
On June 23, nearly a week after his arrest, a state-owned news wire reported that el-Battawy was being held at Tora prison.
El-Battawy later told his family that before he was transferred to the prison, he had been held at National Security headquarters in the Cairo neighborhood of Shubra el-Kheima for five days. He said he was blindfolded the entire time and was hit in the face and threatened with electric shock and sexual torture, according to Masr al-Arabia.
The Ministry of Interior issued a statement saying el-Battawy faced charges of belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, according to news reports. El-Battawy’s wife, journalist Rafeeda al-Safty, wrote on Facebook in mid-July 2015 that he was also being questioned on accusations of “possessing explosives,” “damaging public property,” and “endangering the lives of others.”
El-Battawy’s wife is able to visit him in Tora prison. His pre-trial detention is renewed by the prosecution periodically. No trial date had been set for the journalist as of late 2016.