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Egyptian journalist's fate questioned

December 10, 2015

The detention in Egypt of an Egyptian journalist who recently gave lectures in Germany has prompted calls by Berlin politicians for information on his fate. Sinai expert Ismail Alexandrani was arrested late last month.

Ägypten Ismail Alexandrani Journalist
Image: Ismail Alexandrani

Opposition Greens parliamentarian Franziska Brantner said on Thursday the German foreign ministry told her that it was "attentively" following the case of the 32-year-old freelance investigative journalist.

He was arrested at the airport of Egypt's Red Sea hub of Hurghada after a flight from Berlin on November 29, prompting an immediate call by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists for his release and the dropping of all charges.

Brantner said German foreign minister states secretary Maria Böhmer had written to her, saying Berlin had asked for clarification in Cairo from the government of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

Böhmer had also written that she had "no knowledge" that Alexandrani had been arrested as the result of information sent from Berlin by the Egyptian embassy, Brantner added.

Lecture venues during Alexandrani's tour had included the German Society for Foreign Policy (DGAP), said Brantner, who is a Greens foreign policy expert.

'Stay on the case'

Brantner demanded that Berlin "stay on the case" and accused the Egyptian embassy of "delivering a knife" to Egyptian security forces to intercept outspoken journalists such as Alexandrani under Egypt's tough "anti-terror" laws.

CPJ said Alexandrani faced Egyptian charges of publishing false news and belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

It cited his wife, Khadeega Gaafar, as saying that Alexandrani was transferred to Cairo and questioned for nine hours by prosecutors before being put in pre-trial detention for 15 days.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said last week that Alexandrani's arrest fitted "a pattern of Egyptian security agencies arresting people whose writings don't conform to official views."

Kairo Ägypten Frankreich Vertragsunterzeichnung Lieferung Kriegsschiffe Vals und al-Sisi
Feted by western powers, El Sissi (R) with French PM VallsImage: Reuters/A. A. Dalsh

Specialist on Sinai

Alexandrani had reported on the Egyptian military's efforts to combat jihadist insurgents, especially the "Islamic State" group, in the Sinai Peninsula where censorship had resulted in scarce independent reporting, CJP said.

Human rights groups accuse el-Sissi of installing a repressive regime that has arrested thousands of activists, mostly Islamists, but also leftists and journalists, in the wake of its ouster of his Islamist predecessor Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

Last month, the Egyptian military held prominent rights defender and reporter Hossam Bahgat for a day.

Scores of young Egyptians missing

German Deutschlandfunk (DLF) public radio carried a report on Thursday that 163 young Egyptians had gone missing without a trace in recent months while heading to "school or university" or after being arrested at their homes.

DLF said the number represented named individuals known to human rights groups, but said the number of those missing could be between 800 and 1,000.

One Egyptian journalist interviewed said he had "never feared for my life as much as I fear now."

"Lots of my friends have left the country," the journalist said, adding that people wtih diverging views "can just disappear."

The regime kept saying how beautiful life was in Egypt, but many people "have definitely lost hope," he told DLF.

ipj/jil (AFP, dpa)