Human Rights Watch has called for the immediate release of Egyptian journalist Ismail Alexandrani, who was arrested at Hurghada airport on Sunday and later charged with “spreading false news.”
The US-based rights group called Alexandrani's arrest “disturbing”
“The arrest of Ismail [Alexandrani] is deeply disturbing and fits a pattern of Egyptian security agencies arresting people whose writings don’t conform to official views,” said Joe Stork, HRW's deputy Middle East director, in a statement on Tuesday.
Alexandrani, a prominent journalist and an expert on militant groups in Sinai, was arrested after arriving at Hurghada airport from Germany. On Tuesday prosecutors ordered him to be detained for 15 days pending investigation into charges of "broadcasting false news," judicial sources said.
Alexandrani is known for his criticism of the role of the military in Egyptian politics.
According to the HRW statement, lawyers engaged by Alexandrani's family and Egyptian rights groups said that he had faced lengthy questioning at the Cairo's State Security office on Tuesday.
A judicial source had said he was charged with "belonging to an illegal organisation," in reference to the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood of deposed president Mohamed Morsi, and of spreading "false news aiming at damaging the national interest and disturbing the public peace."
HRW said Alexandrian's detention appears to violate Egyptian law and the country's charter which ban arbitrary detention or arrest without "reasoned judicial order."
“If [Alexandrani] had any arrest warrant or official charges, he should have been informed immediately,” Stork said. “What happened to him is clear intimidation and has little to do with rule of law.”
Alexandrani's arrest comes three weeks after the military detained prominent rights activist and investigative reporter Hossam Bahgat for two days, also on charges including "spreading false news."
Bahgat, who writes for independent local website Mada Masr, had authored an article about the prosecution of a group of military officers for allegedly plotting a coup d'etat.