Cairo, Egypt (openDemocracy) – Journalist Hossam Bahgat was released on Tuesday from a military intelligence unit after two days of detention.
Bahgat was scheduled to face military prosecution on Wednesday on charges of “publishing false information that harms national security” and “publishing information that endangers the public well-being”. The accusations are based on his investigation, ‘A coup busted?‘ into a secret military trial of 26 officers accused of plotting to overthrow the current regime in coordination with the Muslim Brotherhood.
“They discovered that they created a crisis out of nothing,” said lawyer Negad ElBorai, citing why Bahgat was released, in addition to internal and external pressure.
Earlier, the spokesperson for the Egyptian ministry of foreign affairs denounced the United Nations’ Secretary General’s comments on the detainment of Bahgat, when investigations were based on “clear and explicit violations of the Egyptian penal code”. Ban Ki-Moon had expressed concern over the detention of Bahgat on Monday as part of a “series of detentions of human rights defenders”, to which the ministry responded by calling on Ban to “be accurate”.
The US State Department had also said that it was closely following the case. Bahgat, an investigative reporter at Mada Masr independent news website, was interrogated and detained on Sunday following a summons he received on Thursday.
Founder of local NGO Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and recipient of Human Rights Watch’s Alison Des Forges Award in 2011, Bahgat’s recent work also includes looking into the ‘Arab Sharkas cell‘ case, for which 6 were hanged in May following military prosecution. His ‘Who let the jihadis out?‘ investigated who was responsible for the pardon of Islamists post-2011.
“The most important thing is that he is out. Others get detained and stay in prison,” ElBorai said. Sixty-one journalists are currently in Egyptian prisons, according to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI). ANHRI, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Amnesty International were among the groups and organisations calling for Bahgat’s release.
This report prepared byfor openDemocracy.