Australian tells of torture in nearby prison cells
An Australian journalist who was held in Egypt on suspicion of paying Egyptians to stage protests against the authorities Tuesday denied the claims and told how he could hear prisoners being tortured.
Freelance reporter Austin Mackell was freed on Monday along with a US student and their Egyptian translator after two days in detention.
They had been picked up in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla on Saturday, the same day activists held student strikes to mark the first anniversary of ex-President Hosni Mubarak's overthrow.
General Mostafa Baz, police chief of the northern Gharbiya Governorate, claimed they coordinated over the internet to meet in Mahalla, which has a history of labor strikes, to "incite people to protest."
Mackell said this was nonsense.
"This is the standard line: that the people who are protesting, that the people who are fighting for their rights in any regard, are actually being paid by foreign agents," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
"This is the line that state TV has run with on a number of occasions in similar cases, and it's what happened with us as well."
The Cairo-based reporter, who has been in Egypt for around a year, said he was simply doing his job, hoping to meet with Kamal al-Fayoumi, a prominent union figure.
He said he was moved several times during his detention and could hear people being tortured in the cells surrounding his, with a police officer at one point showing him mobile phone footage of the army torturing somebody.
"Nothing was off limits to them," he said. "From the way I was treated as opposed to the people I could hear being tortured in the room next to me, one thing was clear: that as a foreigner my rights and the safety of my person is still more valued by the authorities than that of an Egyptian citizen."
The Egyptian authorities, including the ruling military which took charge after Mubarak was ousted, have accused foreigners of stirring unrest in Egypt which has seen a spate of deadly protests over past months.