Detained Egyptian journalist's health deteriorating, warns family

Ahram Online , Wednesday 9 Apr 2014

Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah El-Shami has lost 30kg since beginning a hunger strike in January, his family says

Abdullah al-Shami
Demonstrators call for release of Al-Jazeera journalists Abdullah al-Shami and Mohammad Bader outside Egypt's embassy in London on November 12, 2013 (Photo: AP)

The family of an Al Jazeera journalist detained in Egypt for almost eight months has called for his release, saying his health is failing due to a months-long hunger strike.

Abdullah El-Shami, an Egyptian reporter for the Doha-based network, was arrested on charges of violence and thuggery during clashes in downtown Cairo on 14 August, the day security forces dispersed two protest camps by supporters of toppled president Mohamed Morsi, killing hundreds.

El-Shami's family urged rights groups and fellow journalists to call for his release.

"His health has deteriorated as a result of a 77-day hunger strike in which he has lost more than 30 kilos."

El-Shami began a hunger strike in late January to protest his continued detention.

"Because we are convinced our son has not committed any fault or done anything punishable by law, we expect the authorities to release him," the family said in a statement reported on the website of Al Jazeera's Egyptian affiliate.

El-Shami is being detained "at very difficult and bad places," the statement said.

"He wants to ask 'what crimes have I committed for my freedom to be usurped and my humanity violated'."

Three other journalists working for the Qatari network, including Australian Peter Greste, have been in custody since late December over charges of airing false news and aiding or joining a terrorist organisation -- identified by authorities as the Muslim Brotherhood.

They are being tried alongside 17 other defendants who prosecutors allege belong to Al Jazeera network. The case has drawn an international outcry over Egypt's muzzling of the media.

The US, the European Union and the United Nations have called for their release.

On Monday, the US state department reiterated Washington's "deep concerns" over the continued detention and trial of the three journalists.

"We remain deeply concerned about the restrictions of freedom of expression in Egypt, including the targeting of Egyptian and foreign journalists simply for expressing their views," US state department spokesperson Mary Harf said.

Harf urged the Egyptian government to drop the charges against the detained journalists and free them, saying that all journalists "should be protected and permitted to do their jobs free from intimidation or fear of retribution."

At the BBC headquarters in London, tens of staff gathered in solidarity with the detainees, their hands clasped over their mouths and holding pictures of the Al Jazeera reporters.

Relations between Egypt and Qatar, a staunch backer of Morsi, have soured following the ouster of the Islamist leader last summer, on the back of mass protests against his rule.

Authorities accuse the Gulf state of backing Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood -- designated a terrorist group by the government.

The authorities closed down all Al Jazeera offices in Egypt in the immediate aftermath of Morsi's removal. The channel, now broadcast from Qatar, can still be viewed in Egypt.



Short link: