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FI 175/19-5
Abgeschlossen am 25. April 2022

Journalist in prolonged arbitrary detention

AI-Index: MDE 12/5275/2022

Journalist Mohamed Salah has been arbitrarily detained for 27 months without trial solely for the peaceful exercise of his human rights. In a letter written from inside prison on 31 January, he called on the authorities to end his pre-trial detention, which has exceeded the maximum limit of two years permissible under Egyptian law. He must be immediately and unconditionally released, and his claims of being tortured or otherwise ill-treated effectively investigated.


Mohamed Salah, a freelance journalist, was arrested on 26 November 2019 from a cafe in the Greater Cairo neighbourhood of Dokki and has since been arbitrarily detained pending investigations by the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP), a special branch of the Public Prosecution responsible for prosecuting crimes that relate to «state security», on accusations of «joining a terrorist group» and «spreading false news» as part of Case No. 488 /2019. Two journalists, married couple Solafa Magdy and Hossam el-Sayed, who were arrested with Mohamed Salah, were provisionally released on 14 April 2021 pending investigations.

On 19 July 2020, a court ordered Mohamed Salah’s provisional release pending investigations in relation to case No. 488/2019, and he was transferred to Dar Essalam police station on 23 July 2020 in preparation for his release. However, on 23 August 2020, the SSSP, ordered his detention pending investigations into a new case (No. 855/2020) over unfounded terrorism accusations. According to his family, he was not allowed visits from his transfer to the police station on 23 July 2020 until 28 December 2020, when relatives saw him for a few minutes after having submitted multiple requests and complaints in December 2020 to the Cabinet of Egypt, which is presided over by the Prime Minister. Relatives of his cellmates followed suit in submitting similar complaints. On 8 January 2021, in apparent retaliation for these complaints, security forces stripped Mohamed Salah and the 13 other detainees held in Cell 6 of Dar Essalam police station naked, suspended them by their feet and beat them using batons and water pipes. Security forces also confiscated their blankets, flooded the cell with cold water and denied them healthcare, including for injuries sustained from beatings. On 10 January 2021, Mohamed Salah was transferred to the Tora Investigations Prison, but barred from family visits until the end of March 2021. Informed sources reported that his injuries were infected, and his torn clothes were covered with blood when he was first transferred to prison. Authorities ignored requests by his lawyer and family to refer him to forensic examination to record his injuries. In two videos obtained by the Guardian and reviewed by Amnesty International, detainees at Dar Essalam police station are seen suspended in stress positions with visible bruises and other open wounds on their heads and bodies. No effective prompt, independent, impartial, transparent, and effective investigations have been conducted into claims of torture and other ill-treatment at Dar Essalam police station. On 15 February 2022, the Public Prosecution issued a statement claiming that the detainees, who appeared in the leaked videos, staged the incident and injured themselves in the aim of «destabilising the country, inciting strife, and spreading rumours».

On 23 August 2021, SSSP prosecutors questioned Mohamed Salah in relation to a new case (No. 855/2020), accusing him of similar charges of «joining a terrorist group», «spreading and broadcasting false rumours» and «misuse of social media». In addition to Mohamed Salah, human rights defender and lawyer Mahienour el-Masry, journalists Esraa Abdelfattah and Solafa Magdy, and human rights defender and lawyer Mohamed Baker are also being investigated in Case No. 855/2020. While Mahienour el-Masry, Esraa Abdelfattah and Solafa Magdy were provisionally released pending investigations in 2021, Mohamed Baker remains imprisoned after an emergency court convicted him of the charge of «spreading false news undermining national security» and sentenced him to four years in prison on 21 December 2021.

According to information gathered by Amnesty International, prosecutors have based accusations against Mohamed Salah and others held in prolonged pre-trial detention for peacefully exercising their human rights mainly on National Security Agency investigations, which defendants and their lawyers are not allowed to examine. The SSSP has been increasingly bypassing court or prosecution decisions to release detainees held in prolonged pre-trial detention by issuing new detention orders covering similar charges, in a practice commonly referred to as «rotation». Since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power, the authorities have cracked down on independent reporting and arbitrarily blocked hundreds of websites, raided and/or closed the offices of at least nine media outlets and arbitrarily detained scores of journalists. At least 31 journalists were behind bars solely due to their media work or for expressing critical views on their social media accounts in December 2021.

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