According to a Cairo prosecutor’s office representative quoted by Agence France-Presse, Hussein is being held for investigation for 15 days on suspicion of inciting sedition against the Egyptian state and disseminating false information.
Al-Jazeera director-general Yasser Abu Hilala said Hussein, 51, was on vacation in Egypt and was not working for Al-Jazeera at the time of his arrest. Hussein worked at Al-Jazeera’s Cairo bureau until it was forced to close in 2013.
The Qatari TV news broadcaster issued a statement from its Doha headquarters calling for Hussein’s immediate release and holding the Egyptian authorities responsible for his safety.
Every since armed forces chief Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi staged a coup d’état in 2013, the Egyptian authorities have accused Al-Jazeera of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which is now outlawed as a terrorist organization.
Al-Jazeera journalists have been repeatedly accused by the judicial authorities of inciting sedition and spreading false information. On 18 June of this year, a Cairo court sentenced three journalists, including two Al-Jazeera ones, to death in absentia for allegedly spying for Qatar.
Three Al-Jazeera journalists – Baher Mohamed (an Egyptian), Mohamed Fadel Fahmy (a Canadian) and Peter Greste (an Australian) – were given three-year jail terms at the end of their second trial in August 2015 on charges of supporting a terrorist organization and putting out false news reports.
Greste was deported after more than a year in prison while President Sisi pardoned the other two in September 2015.
The situation of journalists is becoming increasingly precarious in Egypt, which is ranked 158th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index and is now one of the world’s biggest prisons for media personnel (after China, Eritrea and Iran).