Egyptian journalists Badr, El-Sakka detained 15 days pending investigations on 'plot to overthrow regime'

Ahram Online , Monday 2 May 2016

Egyptian prosecutors had issued a statement earlier Monday saying the 2 journalists arrested from the press syndicate Sunday evening are currently being questioned on accusations of spreading false news and incitement

Mahmoud El-Sakka and Amr Badr
Journalist Mahmoud El-Sakka (L) and Journalist Amr Badr (R) (Photo: Al-Ahram)

Egyptian prosecutors ordered the detention of journalists Amr Badr and Mahmoud El-Sakka for 15 days pending further investigations on various charges including spreading false news and plotting to suspend the constitution.

Egypt's prosecution had questioned Monday afternoon Badr and El-Sakka - two journalists arrested during the ministry of interior's storming of the press syndicate on Sunday evening - on accusations of spreading false news, inciting the public, and plotting to overthrow the regime.

According to judicial sources, police have accused Badr and El-Sakka of "joining organisations that aim to suspend the constitution and overthrow the country's republican system."

The prosecution is also questioning the two journalists on accusations of obstructing government administration, harming national unity and social peace, preparing to print material to achieve their aims, and spreading false news to disturb public security.

In an official statement released on Monday afternoon, prosecutors explained that they had issued on 19 April an arrest warrant for the two journalists and seven others based on police claims that the nine "possessed firearms and Molotov cocktails with the aim of carrying out attacks on police, army forces, and vital facilities." 

According to the prosecution's Monday statement, police investigations showed that the suspects were spreading "false news and rumours to incite the public through social media outlets (Facebook) in the lead up to Sinai Liberation Day celebration on 25 April."

The prosecution concluded by calling on the public to rely only on its official statements on the ongoing investigations. 

Amr Badr, editor-in-chief and founder of Yanair (January) website, and journalist Mahmoud El-Sakka, who works for the same website, were staging a sit-in in the syndicate to protest against their arrest warrants as well as the storming of their homes by security forces last month.

Badr and El-Sakka are veterans of both the 2011 revolution that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak and the Tamarod movement that spearheaded the movement to oust Mubarak's successor, Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, in 2013.

The union charged that during the Sunday evening raid in which the journalists were arrested, police broke press law that mandates that the police must obtain the approval of the general prosecution before entering the premises of the union, and can only do so in the presence of the head of the union.

The union condemned what it described as a "barbaric attack" and a "flagrant assault" on journalists and the press after security forces stormed the building and arrested the two journalists.

The interior ministry has denied in a statement the storming after a wave of criticism and condemnations by the journalists and other professional unions, stressing that it followed all legal procedures while carrying out the arrests and had secured the approval of the prosecution prior to entering the union.

Shorty after the storming and subsequent arrests, the union's board called for the immediate sacking of the interior minister.

In an emergency meeting in the early hours of Monday morning, the board also called on all union members to attend a general assembly on Wednesday, urging members that started a spontaneous sit-in at the HQ following the arrests to continue their action round the clock until the 4 May general assembly.

Heads of the lawyers', engineers, and doctors' syndicates have all condemned the storming of the press syndicate, vowing to support the journalists in their fight for "the dignity of their profession". 

According to the political prisoners advocacy group Freedom for the Brave, in the last three weeks hundreds of activists and demonstrators were arrested in an around protests against Egypt's decision to acknowledge Saudi Arabia's sovereignty over two Red Sea islands.

Many of those arrested were subsequently released, but last week tens were referred to misdemeanor court on various charges including taking part in unauthorised protests.

During the wave of arrests, police stopped scores of journalists, but later released them after syndicate intervention with the ministry of interior.

On 25 April, security forces shut down all roads leading to the journalists syndicate in Downtown Cairo to prevent a planned protest against the islands deal, allowing only few supporters of the agreement to express their backing of the government's decision at the steps of the under-lockdown syndicate headquarters. 

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