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Wife of jailed Egyptian journalist joins syndicate sit-in in 'never worn wedding dress'

The sit-in at the Journalists Syndicate aims to pressure Egypt’s authorities to allow jailed journalists to receive vital medical care and visitors

Ahram Online , Wednesday 2 Mar 2016
Bride of jailed journalist
Bride of jailed journalist Amr Abdel Maksoud and Journalists syndicate member Khaled Elbalshy (photo: Courtesy Journalists syndicate )
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On Wednesday afternoon, Omniya Magdy, the wife of a jailed journalists donned her white wedding dress and joined the three-day-old  sit-in at Egypt’s press syndicate, expressing her solidarity with jailed journalist husband andb imprisoned colleagues’ inside jail.

Her husband, Amr Abdel Maksoud and his two brothers were sentenced in January 2016 by a court in Meit Ghamr, Dakahliya's to 25 years on criminal charges.

Amr was arrested in April 2015 one week before his wedding night.

On Wednesday, tens of journalists  and supporters joined the third day of a sit-in at the Journalists Syndicate in downtown Cairo to demand justice for jailed colleagues.

The sit in began on Monday by two leading syndicate board members, Khaled El Balshy and Mahmoud Kamel, to protest reports of mistreatment of imprisoned colleagues.

"The sit in is part of an important fight that comes to protect press freedom, and in solidarity with our colleagues who face extremely harsh conditions and are denied medication. A fast response is necessary that ensures them the right to medication and visits," a statement released on Wednesday by journalists participating in the sit-in said.

El-Balshy and Kamel have demanded that prison authorities provide medical treatment for at least four colleagues -- Youssef Shaaban, Hani Salah El-Din, Hesham Gaafar, and Hossam El-Sayed -- saying there lives “were in danger.”

The four journalists are imprisoned on a number of charges which range from membership the now banned Muslim Brotherhood to illegally protesting in 2013 when Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was in office.

On Monday, hours after the sit-in started, journalist Mahmoud Kamel, a syndicate council member and one of the organisers, told Ahram Online that only two journalists were moved to a hospital outside prison while blood samples were drawn from the two other journalists, who were then returned to prison.

The veteran journalist and editor of Al-Bedaya website, El Balshy, had said that one of the imprisoned journalists needs urgent heart surgery while another, Youssef Shaaban, needs his Hepatitis C medication. 

Hours after El-Balshy and Kamel started the open-ended sit-in, the interior ministry provided medical care to some ill prisoners including Shaaban, and allowed visitations to other jailed journalists who had been previously denied thechance to see familiy members, El-Balshy said.

Sit-in on hold

Following Wednesday's rally on the steps of the syndicate in downtown Cairo, the journalists decided to suspend their sit in until the syndicate's general assembly is held on Friday, 4 March.

Friday's general assembly will be held to discuss several issues, including press freedoms and the recently proposed media and press law.

"This general assembly comes at a very critical time in Egypt. Aside from the usual matters related to the syndicate, we have the issue of press freedom and the media laws proposed by the government," El-Balshy, who is also the head of the freedoms committee at journalists’ syndicate, told Ahram Online earlier.

According to the journalists' syndicate, there are currently 32 journalists – not all syndicate members – detained and jailed in Egypt, including 18 in cases related to journalism.

The Egyptian government has repeatedly denied that journalists who are behind bars were arrested due to their work.

The authorities have also denied what rights activists describe as systematic violations against inmates inside Egypt's prisons.

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