Charges have been dropped against an Australian journalist and his colleagues who were accused of inciting violence six months ago.
Austin Mackell was arrested in the Nile Delta town of Mahalla on the anniversary of Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. Shortly after arriving in the textile town famous as the birthplace of the April 6 movement, Mackell was arrested with his colleagues. They were accused of giving money to children to throw rocks at a police station.
“They would have been laughed out of an open court,” Mackell told the Daily News Egypt. “The idea that the people in Mahalla would even have listened to some strange foreign journalist and betrayed their country somehow is absurd.
“It is part of the regime’s attempts to make Egyptians afraid of each other and ‘the others.’”
Mackell and his colleagues were released after 56 hours, but were subject to a travel ban. They also had the prospect of a potential seven year prison sentence hanging over them.
“Officially, they were told to either set a trial date or to let us go,” said Mackell. Making that decision took the authorities six months.
He said while he was stuck in Egypt he was supported by funds set up to assist journalists in crisis.
“The whole period has been stressful and has put a stop in our ability to live our lives normally,” Mackell said.
However, the bigger picture may have been to keep journalists away from the protest town that many point to a catalyst of the 25 January revolution, Mackell suggested. “I’m certain there are other journalists who have refrained from going to Mahalla because of our arrest.”