An Egyptian court has extended the detention of four Al Jazeera English journalists by 15 days, pending investigations into allegations that they are part of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. They have yet to be formally charged.
Police arrested the four journalists — Al Jazeera English bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy, correspondent Peter Greste, producer Baher Mohamed, and cameraman Mohamed Fawzy — on Dec. 29 from their suite at the Cairo Marriot Hotel. The interior ministry alleges that the journalists used their hotel rooms to meet with Brotherhood members and broadcast false news. On Dec. 31, the Egyptian general prosecutor renewed their detention for the first time by 15 days.
Al Jazeera has called for the journalists’ immediate release and has denied the allegations.
The Egyptian cabinet recently passed a decree designating the Brotherhood a terrorist group. The journalists’ charges can carry up to five years in prison. The interim government has repeatedly accused Al Jazeera of supporting the Brotherhood. The Qatar-based satellite channel’s Cairo office has been closed since July 3, when police raided the office hours after the ouster of Mohammed Morsi.
The arrest was the first time that Egypt’s interim government has detained journalists with foreign passports. Mohamed, Fawzy, and Fahmy are Egyptian, though Fahmy also holds a Canadian passport. Grese is Australian.
Greste reportedly has a shoulder condition and has been receiving inadequate care. Mclatchy was able to meet briefly with Fahmy on Jan. 6. He said he was being held in solitary confinement in a room filled with insects without a pillow or blankets.
The foreign press corps has taken to #FreeAJStaff to protest the continuing detainment.