Egypt Releases Journalist Hossam Bahgat

Journalists in Egypt have rallied around Hossam Baghat who was detained on Sunday for a report he published on the trial of army officers. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

CAIRO, Nov 10: Prominent Egyptian journalist and human rights advocate Hossam Bahgat was released on Tuesday, his lawyer said, two days after being detained over a report he wrote on a trial of former army officers.

Bahgat’s legal status however remained unclear and it was not known if he would face a military trial, his lawyer added.

Bahgat was summoned on Sunday over charges of publishing false information in an October report about 26 officers he said had been convicted by a military court of plotting a coup, security sources said.

After being questioned, Bahgat was arrested and transferred to the military prosecutor, security sources said.

Following Bahgat’s arrest, several human rights groups and the United Nations criticised the arrest, saying it was further evidence the government was looking to repress independent journalism and civil society.

Amnesty International said Bahgat’s arrest was a clear signal of the determination of Egyptian authorities “to continue with their ferocious onslaught against independent journalism and civil society”.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Egypt to release Bahgat on Tuesday and called for the country to end what it called its harsh treatment of journalists.

“(Egypt should) take urgent steps to halt the legal harassment of journalists…and take equally urgent measures to halt the expanding use of the military justice system for cases involving civilians,” the UNHCR said.

Human rights groups accuse President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, who as military chief deposed a freely elected Islamist president in 2013, of exploiting security threats to roll back political freedoms won in the 2011 uprising that toppled veteran president Hosni Mubarak.

Bahgat founded the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), an independent human rights organization. Nearly three weeks ago he wrote about the military trial for the online news site Mada Masr.

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