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Egypt frees Australian reporter, US student

An Australian journalist, a US student and their Egyptian translator were freed after two days in detention on suspicion of paying Egyptians to stage protests against the authorities.



Cairo: An Australian journalist, a US
student and their Egyptian translator were freed after two days in detention on suspicion of paying Egyptians to stage protests against the authorities, a security official said.

Freelance reporter Austin Mackell, American student Derek
Ludovici and translator Aliya Alwi were detained in the Nile
Delta city of Mahalla on Saturday the same day activists held
student strikes to mark the first anniversary of president
Hosni Mubarak`s overthrow.

"They have just been released and are on their way from
Mahalla to Cairo," the official told AFP yesterday.

Veteran Egyptian labour activist Kamal al-Fayyumi and a
driver who was with them were also released, the official
said.

General Mostafa Baz, police chief of the northern
Gharbiya province, had told reporters the Australian, the
American and their translator were suspected of having
coordinated over the Internet to meet in Mahalla, which has a
history of labour strikes, to "incite people to protest."

A security official said people in Mahalla had complained
to police that all three were paying people to protest. The
authorities have in the past blamed foreigners for plotting
unrest.

Alwi said on her Twitter account that they were being
charged with inciting protests and vandalism.

"Witnesses have been produced to confirm it," she wrote.

"Report against us, filed now. Many witnesses saw us `offering
money to youth to vandalise and cause chaos.”

She later tweeted that they were being handed over to
intelligence services.

"(Mackell) has confirmed he is being treated
appropriately by local police authorities. He confirmed his
intention to engage a legal representative," an Australian
foreign office spokeswoman said Saturday.
The authorities, including the ruling military which took
charge after Mubarak`s ouster, have accused foreigners of
stirring unrest in Egypt which has seen a spate of deadly
protests over past months.

In June, security forces arrested a US-Israeli citizen
they accused of spying and inciting Egyptians to protest. The
man was released in October in a prisoners exchange deal.

PTI

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