Relatives of the two journalists, Hany Grisha and Sayed Shehta, have only just managed to confirm that court orders were issued at the start of September for them to be detained provisionally for an initial 15 days.
The families had previously received no news of them since police raided their homes and took them away, at the same time seizing electronic devices and personnel effects. This was on 26 August in the case of Grisha and 30 August for Shehta.
Accused of “membership of a terrorist group” and “spreading false news,” Shehta was taken from his home in Minya Al-Qamh, 65 km north of Cairo, to a police station in nearby Zagazig although he was quarantined at home because he had Covid-19,
Local media outlets report that he is currently handcuffed to a bed in an intensive care unit in a hospital in Bilbeis, 20 km south of Zagazig, and that his condition has worsened. There is concern about a parallel with Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Monir, who died in mid-July from the coronavirus he caught in prison after his arrest in June.
“We call for the immediate release of Hany Grisha and Sayed Shehta,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “The cruelty shown by the authorities in handcuffing Sayed Shehta to his hospital bed despite his alarming condition compounds the completely arbitrary manner of his detention. Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Monir’s death in July after catching Covid-19 in prison should have served as a lesson and led to more leniency.”
RSF has learned that Youm 7, a privately-owned newspaper that maintains good relations with the government, has decided not to speak out in support of its two journalists. Neither their colleagues nor their families so far know what articles prompted their arrests.
Another Youm 7 journalist, Sarah Allam, meanwhile learned on 6 September that she is being sued by the Coptic bishop of Maghagha and Adwa over a book she published last year that is a compilation of Youm 7 articles about Bishop Epiphanius, who died in July 2018.
Egypt is ranked 166th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.