On Wednesday hunger-striking Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah Elshamy and hundreds of others who have been in prison for nearly 10 months without formal charges had their detention renewed once again for an additional 45 by a Cairo court.
Though the court decision was expected, said Elshamy’s brother Mosa’ab Elshamy, family and friends were hopeful that “his [worsening] health situation and hunger strike would…be taken into consideration.”
“These [court] decisions seem like they’re already pre-planned,” Mosa’ab.
According to Mosa’ab, Elshamy and his attorney were able to meet with the judge before the hearing. When ask by the judge what Elshamy was demanding from his hunger strike, he said “justice.”
Elshamy, who was detained with over 400 others and is yet to be charged, is facing an uphill legal battle, said Mosa’ab. Elshamy is represented by both his family’s lawyer and a legal team from Al Jazeera. Elshamy was arrested on 14 August during the violent clearing of the pro-Mohamed Morsi sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adaweya Mosque by state security forces.
Elshamy has been on hunger strike for 142 days, and medical tests by an independent doctor in mid-May revealed that he is suffering from “acute anaemia, the onset of kidney dysfunction, low blood pressure and hypoglycaemia, and his weight had dropped from 108 to 68 kilograms”, according to his lawyer.
On Tuesday hunger-striking political detainee Mohamed Soltan was transferred from prison to the intensive care unit at Qasr El-Ainy Hospital, according to Soltan’s Hanaa Soltan. Both the hospital and the Ministry of Interior denied Soltan had been moved to the hospital.
Soltan, an Egyptian-America who graduated from Ohio State University, served as press liaison for the Muslim Brotherhood at the mass sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adaweya last summer, and was shot in the arm during its forcible dispersal.
In addition to Elshamy, three journalists working for Al Jazeera’s English network have been detained since being arrested on 29 December. Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, correspondent Peter Greste, and producer Baher Mohamed are currently standing trial for spreading false news, and are accused of “creating a terrorist media network”. Their trial has been delayed or adjourned 11 times since its first session in January. They are next scheduled to appear in court on Monday.
The arrests and detention of journalists in Egypt has garnered international ire. The US State Department called the charges against the Al Jazeera English journalists “spurious”, while the White House, the European Union, the United Nations and the Australian government have all expressed their unequivocal condemnation, and called for the journalists’ release. People around the world have staged protests in solidarity with the journalists, demanding their release.
Egypt has experienced an increasingly severe crackdown on voices of dissent. There are currently 16 journalists detained in Egyptian prisons. The Committee to Protect Journalists has ranked Egypt the third most dangerous country for journalists after Syria and Iraq. The country ranked 159th out of 180 in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders “Press Freedom Index”.
Al Jazeera has unequivocally denied any wrongdoing by its journalists.