Family of detained journalist call for Iftar protest at Egypt’s press syndicate

Ahram Online , Wednesday 24 Jun 2015

Mohamed Al-Batawy, a journalist for the state-owned Akhbar Al-Youm newspaper, disappeared a week ago, his family say

Mohamed El-Batawy (Photo: Al-Ahram)

The family of detained Egyptian journalist Mohamed Al-Batawy have called for others to join them in breaking their Ramadan fast on the steps of Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate on Wednesday evening to protest against his "disappearance" last week.

"Al-Batway was kidnapped a week ago, and we don't know exactly where he is," his family said in a statement released on his wife's Facebook page.

"The latest update on where he is being detained was from the interior ministry's Monday statement, which said that he is in the Tora prison," the family added.

On June 17, security forces affiliated with the State Security apparatus raided Al-Batawy's house in the town of Tookh in the Nile Delta governorate of Qalyubia, 48 kilometers to the north of Cairo.

Press reports have said that Al-Batawy, who works for the state-run newspaper Akhbar Al-Youm, is facing charges of joining an outlawed group, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt designated a "terrorist" group in 2013, following the ouster of Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi.  

Al-Batawy's family has however claimed that a recent order from the State Security Prosecution did not include these accusations.

"Last Sunday, the State Security Prosecution ordered that Al-Batawy remain in custody for 15 days pending investigations, while he has been interrogated with no lawyer present," the statement read.

"Yesterday, his lawyer went to the prosecution to check the case records, and he found no mention of the accusations against him," the statement said.

For his part, Journalists Syndicate board member Mohamed Shabana told Ahram Online that Al-Batawy is in Tora prison.

"What the interior ministry has said is that Al-Batway is in Tora, and we are now trying to obtain visit permits from the ministry to go there and check up on him," he said.

"We will provide him with a lawyer as stipulated by the syndicate's bylaws, but we need to bear in mind that Al-Batawy's case is apparently criminal, not one linked to freedom of expression," Shabana added.

Several journalists have recently been detained or sentenced to prison over unclear accusations or charges not linked to freedom of expression.

Most notably, photojournalist Mohamed Abou-Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, has been in jail without trial since August 2013, while journalist Youssef Shaban was sentenced to three years in prison last month, over charges of “attacking” an Alexandria police station in 2013, along with prominent activist Mahienour El-Masry.

In its 2014 annual report, the Committee to Protect Journalists ranked Egypt among the worst ten jailers of journalists that year, with at least 12 reporters in jail.

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