CAIRO: A Swedish journalist living in Egypt is expected to be deported Thursday after being detained at Cairo airport since the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Freelance journalist and blogger Per Bjorklund was detained at Cairo Airport while retuning from Sweden via Prague in the Czech Republic. Contact was cut off with Bjorklund from 3 am Tuesday and since then both his Swedish lines as well as his Egyptian mobile number have been switched off.
His girlfriend Anna who was traveling with him told Daily News Egypt that they had arrived at Cairo airport at 1:30 am on Tuesday, and had purchased a visa and it was when they went to get it stamped that officials stopped Bjorklund.
“They told him that it said on the computer that they should not let him through, she said, “they didn’t know what to do with him so they told him to just wait until someone could come talk to him.
“They told me to go and wait for him in another terminal, Anna continued, “Per called me at 3 am and said he was ok. He said he was still waiting and didn’t know what was happening. That’s the last I heard from him.
She waited for six hours and finally approached a policeman at the airport and persuaded him to go check on Bjorklund. He returned and informed her that he had already been deported.
Journalist and blogger Hossam El-Hamalawy, author or the arabawy.org blog, was the last person to speak to Bjorklund on the phone and told Daily News Egypt that his phone was switched off at 4:44 am.
“He was in a room with other people and was given no explanation [for his detainment]. The last time I spoke to him was right before security was coming in to speak to him.
He later sent a message to El-Hamalawy telling him that he was to be deported.
However, Anna stated that the Swedish embassy had informed her that Bjorklund was still detained at the airport at least up until noon on Tuesday. According to Anna, the embassy had informed her that Bjorklund was now considered “persona non grata in Egypt.
Joakim Vaverka, press councilor at the Swedish Embassy, told Daily News Egypt that “several members of the embassy are involved in this matter, we’re doing the best we can to get information about the reasons for the detention but we want confirmation form the Egyptian authorities and we want to know his exact whereabouts. We don’t believe that he has been deported but we want that officially confirmed.
According to Anna, authorities at the airport were waiting to send Bjorklund back via Czech airlines, the next flight being on Thursday at 2 am.
A security official told the Associated Press that Bjorklund had been detained by order of State Security, and was still in custody at the airport, waiting to be deported on the next flight to Prague.
Bjorklund has been residing in Egypt for three years and is a freelance journalist for Swedish publications as well as the writer of the English-language ‘Egypt and Beyond’ blog (http://scandegypt.blogspot.com/). He covers – amongst other things – labor struggles in Egypt.
“I think if he gets deported then he won’t be able to return for a few years, Anna said, “I can’t see him not being in Egypt.
Bjorklund is now the second foreign participant of the To Gaza March held last February to be deported from Cairo airport. Earlier this month, American Travis Randall was also prevented from entering Egypt at the airport and ordered to return from whence he came, at his own expense, but not before having his laptop confiscated.
However, other participants in the march have since left and entered Egypt without being stopped.
The march was a small gathering of mainly foreigners holding a symbolic walk in solidarity with residents of the Gaza Strip, who had just come out of a 22-day aerial and land assault by the Israeli army.
Police interrupted the march, and its organizer activist Philip Rizk was taken by State Security from a police station and held for four days in an undisclosed location before being released.
“It was a strange time, Anna said, “Police were coming over. I don’t know why it was such a magical thing but I am suspicious that it could be related [to Bjorklund’s deportation].
El-Hamalawy said, “State Security is to be asked about this [possible connection to the march]. When you think about it, [the march] was a trivial matter with very few people. I don’t know what was so dangerous [about it].