Monday, November 30, 2015

Despite his release, journalist may still face military prosecution for his writings

Mada Masr

A statement by Hossam Bahgat on his military detention, interrogation

By: Hossam Bahgat

Tuesday, November 10, 2015 

Mada Masr contributor Hossam Bahgat recently published a statement on his Facebook account in which he documents the events that took place during his three-day detention by military intelligence and interrogation by military prosecution, from Sunday November 7 until his release today at Tuesday November 10 at noon.

A translation of Bahgat's statement by Mada Masr reads as follows:

Firstly, I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who has expressed any form of solidarity during the three days in which I was “hosted” by the Egyptian military.

It is not the appropriate moment for me to narrate all the details of the past three days, so I will only document the events that took place briefly.

On the morning of Sunday November 8, I headed to military intelligence headquarters in response to a written summons that was delivered to my house three days earlier.

I spent approximately three hours at military intelligence before I was escorted through a back door to a car and driven to the military judiciary, accompanied by armed guards. My request to contact my family, lawyer or colleagues, who were waiting for me outside the building, was denied.

At the military judiciary, I was held in the car with armed guards for over five hours, before being made to appear in front of a member of the North Cairo Military Prosecution and interrogated as someone facing charges.

I resisted several attempts to intimidate and entice me into waiving my right to have a lawyer present. Upon my insistence, I was allowed one phone call to inform a friend of my whereabouts and request a lawyer.

As my interrogation began, a large number of colleagues, friends and lawyers, who are the companions of years of struggle, waited for me outside with the knowledge of the colonel who heads the prosecution.

The interrogation, which commenced in the presence of 25 volunteer defense lawyers, was wholly focused on a journalistic investigation that I published in Mada Masr on October 13 with the headline “A coup busted?”

My interrogation was based on a report by military intelligence against me. At the end, the head of the prosecution informed me that I faced charges of deliberately broadcasting false news that harms national interests and involuntarily disseminating information that harms public interests, as per Articles 102 and 188 of the Penal Code.

After the interrogation was completed and the lawyers were dismissed, I was transferred to military intelligence again. I waited in the same car until 11 pm, when another car arrived with three armed men in civilian clothing. They searched me thoroughly, then took me to their car, blindfolded me and asked me to lower my head on the seat in front of me.

I was taken to an unknown location and questioned by a doctor upon arrival, who asked if I had any illnesses or was taking any medication. I was then asked to take off my clothes, and the doctor performed a non-invasive physical inspection.

Afterward, I was allowed to get dressed and was escorted into a building. My blindfold was taken off and all my possessions were confiscated, including my glasses, and I was moved to a small, dark cell with nothing but two blankets on the floor.

After about 15 minutes, the guard blindfolded me again and I spoke to officials who did not reveal their identities. They told me that the matter would end in the morning and ordered that I be transferred to the “villa.”

I was then escorted to a room with a bed and a small bathroom and I was allowed to bring in some of the food that lawyers had provided while I was at military prosecution.

I was kept in this room, which was secured by both a wooden and metal door, from Sunday November 8 at midnight until Tuesday November 9 at noon. During this time, I was not interrogated.

All of the demands I made to the guards were ignored. I requested many times that they inform officials of my wishes to know the military prosecution’s decision regarding my detention and to understand my legal position — to know whether I was being detained under investigation, referred to trial or abducted. I was not even allowed to meet any of the officers.

Today, on Tuesday, at noon, I was blindfolded and escorted by an armed guard in a car to military intelligence again. I met with two officers, a general and a lieutenant colonel, for an hour, and was informed for the first time that the prosecution had ordered my detention for four days pending investigations, but that military intelligence had decided to release me today.

At the end of the meeting, I wrote a statement that was dictated to me stating: “I will abide by legal and security procedures when publishing material pertaining to the Armed Forces” and asserting that I did not experience any physical or emotional abuse during my detention at military intelligence. My possessions were returned to me and I was allowed to leave.

I still do not know the fate of the investigations into the two charges mentioned above. Defense lawyers will try to clarify the matter in the coming days.

Throughout the course of my interrogation by military prosecution, they reiterated that I do not enjoy the legal and syndicate protection that journalists have, because I am not a member of the Journalists Syndicate.

While I thank the syndicate for sending a lawyer to attend my interrogation, I urge, again, the board of the Journalists Syndicate and its general assembly to take immediate measures to secure syndicate protection to all those who practice journalism with no discrimination.

In the end, I was lucky to receive an outpouring of solidarity and sympathy, which guaranteed a degree of relatively better treatment during my detention and the short duration of my stay, despite the aforementioned procedural violations of my rights as a detainee. I can only thank all the lawyers, colleagues, friends, comrades and Egyptian and international organizations that expressed their support and offered me their assistance.

I wish for freedom for the thousands of people unfairly detained in Egyptian prisons. I reassert my rejection of the criminalization of journalistic work, the use of the Penal Code to imprison journalists, and the trial of civilians in military courts.



Read Also:

Egypt: Arrest of prominent activist Hossam Bahgat another blow for freedom of expression (Amnesty International)

CPJ calls on Egypt to release investigative journalist Hossam Bahgat (Committee to Protect Journalists)

Egypt: Free Journalist Facing Military Prosecution (Human Rights Watch)

Ban Ki Moon concerned about detention of human rights defender in Egypt (United Nations, Secretary General)

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