Human rights watchdogs Amnesty International and Human Rights watch both exalted the Tuesday release of hunger-striking Al Jazeera journalist Abdallah Elshamy, while remaining concerned about the larger implications of his case and the 15 other journalists who remain in custody.
Elshamy, who was arrested last August while covering the violent dispersal of the pro-Mohamed Morsi sit-in at Rabaa El-Adaweya, and held without charges, was on hunger strike for his last 147 days in prison. He was one of 14 prisoners released on Tuesday afternoon due to failing health.
Despite his release, the prosecutor general’s investigation into Elshamy remains ongoing.
“Abdellah [Elshamy] went from surviving the largest mass killing in modern Egyptian history, straight to 10 months,” said an HRW spokesman. “It’s about he was released, but HRW remains concerned about his investigation.”
“We encourage the Egyptian prosecution to immediately produce charges against all political prisoners held in prison, or to release them.”
Amnesty International expressed sentiments similar to HRW.
“Abdallah Elshamy’s release from prison is a relief, but his ordeal is not over yet,” said Mohamed Abu Serry, Amnesty International spokesman. “He is a prisoner of conscience who should have never been jailed in the first place.”
In a 3 June letter to President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, media rights advocate the Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) urged the new administration to confront issues facing the media in the country and to release all jailed journalists.
“Egypt is at its lowest point for journalists,” said CPJ spokeswoman Shaimaa Abulkhair, citing rising incidents of arrest, detainment and intimidation aimed at journalists from state security forces.
Ten journalists have been killed while working in Egypt since the January 2011 toppling of Mubarak, with six deaths since former president Mohamed Morsi was removed by the military last July.
There are currently 15 journalists detained in Egyptian prisons. Three journalists from Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera have been detained since 29 December, and are currently on trial facing charges of spreading false news to tarnish Egypt’s reputation and “creating a terrorist media network”. They have repeatedly been denied bail, and their trial has been adjourned or postponed 10 times since it began mid-February.
A verdict for the Al Jazeera journalists is expected on 23 June.