Mohamed Ibrahim, a blogger known as Mohamed Oxygen, was initially arrested in April 2018 and detained for over a year. A court in July 2019 released him on probation, but the blogger was taken back into custody in September 2019 on new charges. He was scheduled for release in November 2020, but his detention was extended after prosecutors added a further charge.
Ibrahim had been detained from April 6, 2018 to July 31, 2019, on charges of being a member of a banned group and spreading false news, the regional press freedom group Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) reported.
When Cairo Criminal Court on July 22, 2019, ordered Ibrahim’s release pending the outcome of his trial, it stated he must sign in at a police station twice a week, according to ANHRI. Nine days after the court ruling, the blogger was released, ANHRI reported.
On September 21, 2019, police detained Ibrahim went he arrived at the el-Basateen police station in Giza as part of his release conditions, according to the ANRHI and the Regional Center for Rights and Liberties.
On October 8, 2019, a Cairo criminal court charged the blogger with membership in a banned group, spreading false news, and misusing social media platforms to disrupt national security, and ordered his detention for 15 days, according to ANHRI. During this hearing session, authorities did not allow Ibrahim’s lawyer in court, according to the network.
The fresh arrest came as the government cracked down on protests over army corruption that, according to news reports, included calls on el-Sisi to resign. As of mid-October 2019, authorities had charged over 3,690 people with membership of a banned group, spreading false news, and misusing social media platforms to disrupt national security, the local legal non-governmental organization Egyptian Center for Economic & Social Rights reported.
A few hours before his arrest, Ibrahim had tweeted a list naming protesters and journalists whom authorities had detained during protests.
Ibrahim’s previous arrest on April 6, 2018 came after he reported on government opposition figures and irregularities in Egypt’s 2018 presidential election, according to his social media accounts and a YouTube post from his colleague Mona Ahmed. Ibrahim’s blog, Oxygen Egypt, featured critical reports on the presidential election and alleged police abuse. Ibrahim also managed a YouTube channel that included interviews on the street with Egyptians on a range of subjects. The reports did not specify which blog or content the prosecutor cited as reason for the charges.
Ibrahim was one of at least two journalists arrested in 2018 as part of a larger crackdown and mass trial known as case 621, in which over 40 defendants are accused of false news and being members of a banned group.
On September 28, 2018, U.N. human rights experts had urged Egyptian authorities to ensure Ibrahim was afforded every right to due process and a fair, impartial, and public trial.
Prosecutors have repeatedly extended Ibrahim’s pretrial detention period by 45 days, including on July 28, 2020, according to news reports. On November 3, a terrorism court in Cairo ordered the release of at least 300 people held in pretrial detention, including Ibrahim, without revealing the reason for its decision, according to news reports. However, as he was waiting to be released, on November 10 the state prosecutor’s office filed an additional charge against him, alleging membership in a terrorist organization, and ordered his detention to be extended pending an investigation into that charge, according to ANHRI and news reports.
On March 10, 2020, the Ministry of Interior banned visitors, including family members and lawyers, from entering prisons as a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19; as of August 22, visitors have been allowed on a limited basis, according to news reports.
On August 23, a family member of Ibrahim’s tried to visit him in prison for the first time since the ban was imposed but learned then that the previous week Ibrahim had been moved to a maximum security section of the Tora Prison Complex, called Scorpion, and was not allowed to see him there, according to a family friend, who declined to be identified for fear of reprisal, and news reports.
According to an ANHRI report in October 2020, Ibrahim has been denied family visits, family payments for his use in the prison commissary, and medication and goods from his family. Ibrahim’s family does not have information on his health, according to the family friend.
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 on Ibrahim’s case in September 2020.