Al Jazeera journalist detained in Egypt begins hunger strike

Ahram Online , Monday 23 Dec 2013

Qatari-owned channel's correspondent Abdullah Al-Shami and over 300 supporters of toppled president Mohamed Morsi go on hunger strike against conditions in Egyptian prison

Al Jazeera journalist
File photo: Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr's studio overlooking Tahrir square torched by unknown assailants, November 2012 (Photo: Zeinab El Gundy)

An Al Jazeera journalist and hundreds of Mohamed Morsi supporters have begun a hunger strike against prison conditions, judicial sources have told Ahram Online.

Abdullah Al-Shami and 322 supporters of Egypt's toppled Islamist president took action because of "mistreatment and their small insect-infested cells which they can only leave for half an hour a day," the prisoners' defence team said.

Al-Shami and the other hunger strikers were arrested on 14 August when security forces killed hundreds of people while clearing two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo, unleashing nationwide unrest.

Last week, a court extended the pre-trial detention of Al-Shami and 512 other detainees for a further 45 days over charges including arms possession and the murder of security personnel, defence lawyer Mostafa Attiya said.

The channel's cameraman Mohamed Badr has been held since July after being arrested at clashes in downtown Cairo. He is accused of violent acts and thuggery.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has listed Egypt among top 10 worst jailers of journalists in 2013. The top three were Turkey, Iran and China.

A report issued last week showed that Egypt holds three other journalists in custody.

Egypt has been rocked by turmoil since the July ouster of Morsi after mass protests against his one-year rule.

The authorities have since launched a sustained crackdown on his Islamist supporters, in which hundreds have been killed and thousands, including the upper echelons of his Muslim Brotherhood movement, arrested.

Morsi himself is standing trial in three separate cases over charges including the murder of opposition protesters and a prison break during the 2011 revolt.

Al Jazeera's offices in Cairo have been closed since 3 July, when they were raided by security forces hours after Morsi was overthrown.

The channel, now broadcast from Qatar, has been accused by the authorities and local media of biased coverage in favour of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.

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