Egypt’s military has freed Hossam Bahgat, the prominent rights defender and investigative journalist, a day after his detention led to calls for his release from the United Nations. “He called me and said he’s been released from the military intelligence building,” Gasser Abdel-Razek, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative For Personal Rights group that Bahgat founded, told the AFP news agency:
No further information was available in the immediate moments after Bahgat’s release. Military intelligence arrested Bahgat, a contributor at the local Mada Masr news outlet, on Sunday morning after delivering a summons to his home on Thursday. According to Mada Masr, Bahgat was charged with “publishing false news that harms national interests and disseminating information that disturbs public peace”.
The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Tuesday that they were deeply disturbed by the arrest and extended detention of Bahgat. “We urge the Egyptian authorities to release Mr Bahgat without delay,” Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said. Those who had campaigned for Bahgat’s release welcomed the news with caution, saying that many others remain imprisoned in a blow to press freedom. The filmmaker and writer Omar Robert Hamilton had been organising a protest demanding Bahgat’s release in New York.
On hearing Bahgat was freed, he wrote on Facebook: “Good news: Hossam has been released. So many more are still in jail, though. So let’s still go to the consulate today with posters for Shawkan and Alaa and other cases of those detained for expressing their opinions or their journalistic work.