Police on June 10, 2018, arrested documentary filmmaker Momen Hassan at a video production company owned by his friend in Giza, according to local news and press freedom groups. His lawyer, Karim Abdelradi, who works with the Arab Network of Human Rights Information (ANHRI), told CPJ and local news website Katib on August 16, 2018, that a month after his arrest, the Cairo national security prosecutor charged him with “membership of a banned group” and spreading false news. The prosecutor did not specify what films or content led to the charges.
Abdelradi told CPJ that Hassan was working on a documentary about Suleiman Khater, an Egyptian soldier who killed seven Israeli tourists in Sinai in 1985 and was later found dead in military custody, after apparently taking his own life. A military prosecutor in June convicted six actors who participated in a play about Khater of insulting the army and handed them a suspended two-month jail sentence, according to news reports.
Abdelradi told local media that Hassan was beaten by an electric stick while being questioned about his work as a journalist for the London-based Al-Arabi TV network and Al Jazeera documentary TV, as well as other production companies that authorities say are anti-government.
Hassan is detained in Tora prison. As of late 2018, prosecutors had repeated renewed his pretrial detention period, ANHRI reported.
On December 1, 2018, a Giza Criminal Court ordered Hassan to be released on probation along with the blogger Wael Abbas and academic Walid al-Shobaky, his lawyer Karim Abdel Rady told CPJ. They were ordered to report to police twice a week for 45 days, AFTE reported. As of December 3, 2018, all three were still in custody.
Hassan is one of several journalists arrested as part of a larger crackdown and mass trial known as case 441, in which dozens of defendants in a mass trial face charges of spreading false news and being a member 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. Government officials and media regulators threatened the media with fines and prosecutors detained journalists for allegedly spreading false news.
Late in 2018, the Ministry of Interior, which has oversight of the police and prison system, and the prosecutor general’s office had not answered CPJ’s requests for comment sent via email.