Lawyers fear acquitted journalist may face emergency law detention

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ALEXANDRIA: Ahmed Mamdouh and Mohamed Abdel Aziz, two lawyers for Al-Badeel journalist Youssef Shaaban, began a hunger strike on Saturday over speculations that Shaaban will remain detained under the emergency law.

Shaaban was arrested on Nov. 19 on charges of drug and knife possession. But the charges, which were widely believed to be pinned on him because of his political activism and articles written about police brutality, were dropped last Thursday due to insufficient evidence.

The public prosecution issued a release order for Shaaban on Thursday, but he remains in police custody.

Shaaban’s lawyers said that “a trusted judicial source” told them that since Shaaban is still in custody after the release order, it means that there has been a decision to detain him under the emergency law.

“There is no reason for Shaaban to be detained under the emergency law which was limited to use in drug and terrorism cases,” said Mamdouh. “Youssef is a journalist and an activist, and the drug use charges that he faced were dropped.”

Shaaban’s lawyers said that the prosecution has stalled implementing Shaaban’s release order since Thursday. According to Mamdouh, the release order did not reach Al-Raml police station until Friday, which is a day off.

Standard procedures were then followed on Saturday, when Shaaban was transported from Borg Al-Arab prison to Al-Raml for his final meeting with investigators. The only procedure not followed thereafter was his release.

“He should have been released Saturday night [at the latest],” said Mamdouh. “This is absurd.”

Mamdouh added that Shaaban is being mistreated, has been placed in solitary confinement, and has been deprived of food, in addition to having his head shaved by police.

Al-Badeel journalists and human rights activists protested Shaaban’s anticipated emergency law detention on Saturday, starting a strike at the Journalists’ Syndicate on Sunday that will last until Shaaban’s release.

Khaled El-Bishy, Al-Badeel editor-in-chief, said that Shaaban’s detention — despite dropping charges against him — proved that the charges were false to begin with and that the Ministry of Interior holds a personal grudge against him.

“The Ministry of Interior is defying the public prosecution’s decision,” said El-Bishy. “This is legal bullying.”

Mamdouh said that if the expectation that Shaaban will be detained under the emergency law actually materializes, there will be an escalation in procedures taken by his lawyers — legal and otherwise — as well as a variety of protests led by political activists.

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