The detention of three Al Jazeera journalists held on suspicion of terrorism was extended for an additional 15 days on Thursday.
Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, correspondent Peter Greste, and producer Baher Mohamed have faced several rounds of interrogations since being arrested on 29 December at the Marriott Hotel. The trio face accusations of terrorism, including “joining a terrorist organisation, publishing false news harming national security, terrorising people and harming the people’s general benefit, as well as possessing broadcast equipment without a licence”.
Al Jazeera correspondent Bernard Smith, who has extensive experience in Cairo, told Daily News Egypt that the Egyptian prosecutor gave no reason for the renewal of their detention.
“[The prosecutor] can add 15 days without any reason,” said Smith. “Obviously we hope they’ll be released as soon as possible, but it’s impossible to predict what the authorities will do.”
According to Al Jazeera, the three journalists are being held separately in Cairo’s notorious Tora Prison.
A group of journalists from McClatchy news service were able to visit Fahmy in prison on 6 January under the guise of being his friends. Fahmy appeared “haggard and confused but healthy,” according to the article.
In a Thursday statement, Al Jazeera spokesman Ghassan Abu Hussein expressed his dismay over the journalists’ continued detention.
“We condemn the allegations directed at our staff by Egyptian authorities, who are aiming to stigmatise us, and further incite violence against our journalists working on the ground,” said Hussein. “This is all part of a larger antagonistic campaign against us.”
The broadcaster has continually demanded the immediate release of its journalists and has repeatedly professed their innocence.
“Al Jazeera Media Network is operating legally in Egypt. However, due to its coverage of all perspectives on events in Egypt, it has been subject to enormous pressure by the interim government since the coup d’etat of 3 July 2013,” read the statement.
Al Jazeera, seen by many Egyptians as sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, has been no stranger to government sanctions since Mohamed Morsi’s 3 July ouster at the hands of the military, and has been subject to arrests of its members, confiscations of equipment, and raids on their offices.
Egyptian Al Jazeera journalists Abdullah Al-Shami and Mohammad Badr were arrested covering protests last summer and remain in prison, while New Zealander correspondent Wayne Hay, British cameraman Adil Bradlow, and Irish producer Russ Finn were detained for five days and then deported while working for the satellite network.