As of Monday 20 June, Al-Jazeera journalist Hisham Abdelaziz has completed three years of pre-trial detention since his arrest in June 2019 on his return to Egypt from Qatar to spend his annual vacation.
The legally prescribed maximum period for pre-trial detention in Egypt is two years. However, Abdelaziz has been ‘rotated’, meaning that a new case has been brought against him since his initial detention.
He was first detained in June 2019 for “belonging to a proscribed group”, though was released on bail on 5 December that same year.
Immediately after his release, Abdelaziz was transferred to the Hadayek El Kobba district police station, where he was again subjected to a period of enforced disappearance, lasting one month.
After that month, his family were informed that he was being held in Tora Prison and under investigation as part of case 1956 of 2019, led by the State Security Prosecution office. He has remained in detention on that basis since.
Abdelaziz’s continued detention on the basis of that second case continues, despite the political reconciliation between Egypt and Qatar.
In June 2019, the Egyptian authorities detained Abdelaziz and his family on their arrival at Cairo airport, whilst they were beginning their annual holiday. Abdelaziz was taken to the National Security Agency’s (NSA) office within the airport and interrogated for five hours. His mobile phone and computer, and his wife and childrens’ passports and travel bags, were taken. Abdelaziz was told he would be able to retrieve their belongings from the NSA headquarters.
Only hours after his release, he was informed that he was to return to the NSA’s airport office, where he was arrested and subjected to three days of enforced disappearance. Over those three days, he was deprived of food and water and blocked from using the bathroom, amongst other humiliating treatments. By the time of his appearance before a prosecutor, Abdelaziz was in a confused state.
Abdelaziz’s family report that he continues to suffer from glaucoma and other serious eye conditions, and say that Egyptian authorities have blocked the urgent surgery he needs to save his sight. Abdelaziz also suffers from a serious ear condition.
According to Reporters Without Borders, Abdelaziz worked as a producer for the Doha-based Al-Jazeera network.
Numerous Egyptian journalists have been imprisoned since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took power in 2013, after which Egyptian authorities initiated an unprecedented crackdown on its critics.