Egyptian blogger and freelance journalist Mohamed Salah was arrested in 2019 in Cairo along with journalists Solafa Magdy and Hossam el-Sayyad, who were both released in 2021. Salah was scheduled for release in August 2020, but his detention was extended after prosecutors added further charges.
Salah wrote about political issues for various local news outlets, his friend Magdy told CPJ before their arrest. Salah also had hundreds of followers on his Facebook page, according to CPJ’s review of the page before it was taken offline.
Their arrests came amid a crackdown between September and November 2019, during which several journalists, including the Egyptian journalist Esraa Abdelfattah, were arrested and authorities raided the Cairo offices of the independent news outlet Mada Masr. Salah was in a car with Abdelfattah, on their way to meet Magdy at the time of her October 2019 arrest, Magdy told CPJ at the time. Prior to her arrest, Magdy posted on Twitter and Facebook about these incidents.
On November 26, 2019, plainclothes security officers arrested Magdy, el-Sayyad, and Salah as they left a coffee shop in the Dokki neighborhood of the Greater Cairo Area, Magdy’s lawyer Nabih el-Ganadi told CPJ.
The officers took the journalists to a police station in Dokki, where they confiscated their mobile phones and Magdy’s car keys, according to el-Ganadi. When Magdy refused to unlock her phone, an officer cursed and beat her until she did so, el-Ganadi told CPJ. The officers blindfolded the journalists and took them to a location that one of the officers said belonged to the state security body, the lawyer said.
The lawyer said that authorities questioned the group about their journalistic work and the news outlets they work for.
The lawyer added that the case file for Magdy and el-Sayyad did not mention the confiscated mobile phone or car keys.
On November 27, 2019, all three journalists appeared in front of a state security prosecutor who charged Magdy and Salah with membership of a banned group and disseminating false news, and el-Sayyad with membership of a banned group, el-Ganadi told CPJ. The prosecutor ordered them to be detained for 15 days pending investigation, according to el-Ganadi.
Prior to his November arrest, police questioned Salah when they stopped him and Abdelfattah on October 12, 2019, according to news reports. The officers, who were armed, asked Abdelfattah to step out of the car and when she refused, they beat her and forcibly dragged her into one of their cars, Magdy told CPJ at the time. Other officers searched Salah’s car, confiscated his laptop and took money, according to Magdy. They blindfolded him, beat him, and forced him into the second car, according to Magdy and Al-Hurra. The officers took Salah to a deserted highway in the 6th of October suburb of Cairo, questioned him for an hour, took his phone’s SIM card and left him on the highway, according to Magdy and Al-Hurra.
Salah was due for release on August 24, 2020, when the prosecutor general’s office overturned that release order, charged him with membership in and the funding of a terrorist group and spreading false news on social media based on acts he had allegedly committed while in prison and ordered his detention extended pending a new investigation, according to news reports.
Prosecutors have repeatedly renewed Salah’s pretrial detention, according to a friend of Salah who spoke with CPJ via messaging app on the condition of anonymity citing fear of reprisal.
Local lawyers and rights groups have noted that the Egyptian penal code allows detainees to be held in pretrial detention for a maximum period of two years, and that it is common practice for Egyptian authorities to file additional charges against detainees to extend that period, in what has become known the “revolving door policy”
In August 2020, the prosecutor general’s office also filed new charges against Salah’s friends, journalists Magdy and Abdelfattah, based on acts they have allegedly committed while in custody, according to local news reports. Magdy and al-Sayyad were released on April 14, 2021; Abdelfattah was released on July 17, 2021, according to news reports.
Salah is held in the Tora Prison Complex in Cairo, according to Salah’s friend. The friend said that the journalist is suffering from skin infections on his back and feet and has not received medical care in prison.
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 Salah in September 2021.