Cairo: Egyptian state security prosecutors interrogated a team of journalists working for Al-Jazeera`s English channel on Monday a day after they were arrested in Cairo, a security official said today.
State security prosecutors usually investigate cases involving national security or terrorism. The official said the journalists from the Qatar-based network were being questioned for broadcasting without permission from a five-star hotel, the Cairo Marriott. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
It was not immediately clear if the team was facing other charges.
Egypt has long accused Al-Jazeera of bias in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood of ousted President Mohammed Morsi. But so far its crackdown on the network has mostly targeted its Arabic service and a local branch focusing on Egypt coverage.
The Interior Ministry had said its arrest of the journalists was part of its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood group, which the government branded as a "terrorist" organisation last week.
The ministry accused one of those arrested, without naming him, of using the hotel suite as a media centre for the group from which it broadcast "rumours and false news" and to hold organisational meetings for members of the Brotherhood.
The arrests came as authorities widen its crackdown on the movement. A Cairo court today also sentenced 138 pro-Morsi protesters to two years in prison with labour on charges of rioting and vandalism.
Al-Jazeera network said in a statement that four of its journalists based in Cairo were detained late last day, including Australian award-winning correspondent Peter Greste; Al-Jazeera English Bureau Chief Mohammed Fahmy, a producer and a cameraman. The network called their detention "arbitrary", and called for their immediate release.
Al-Jazeera`s offices have been stormed several times before. State pressure on the channel has intensified since Egypt`s July 3 coup, which followed demonstrations by millions calling for Morsi`s ouster.
Al-Jazeera journalists and cameramen have been detained and a court order has barred its local affiliate from broadcasting in Egypt since September, accusing it of endangering national security. The affiliate, Al-Jazeera Mubasher Egypt, has continued to broadcast using its studios in Doha, Qatar, collaborating with freelancers and using amateur videos.