Egypt to release reporter on hunger strike

Egypt`s top prosecutor has ordered the release of a journalist who has been on hunger strike for more than four months to protest his prolonged detention without charges or trial.

AP Last Updated: Jun 17, 2014, 04:26 AM IST

Cairo: Egypt`s top prosecutor has ordered the release of a journalist who has been on hunger strike for more than four months to protest his prolonged detention without charges or trial.

A statement from the prosecutor`s office yesterday said Abdullah Elshamy, 26, and 12 others will be set free, citing "health conditions." The statement only named Elshamy. His lawyer said none of the 12 others were journalists.

The order to release Elshamy came on the same day the judge who is presiding over the trial of three other Al-Jazeera journalists said there would be a verdict on June 23, five months after the proceedings opened.

The case is the first prosecution of journalists on terrorism-related charges in Egypt. It has sparked an outcry among journalists and rights groups, who have criticised the allegations as groundless, saying the reporters were only doing their jobs.

Both cases are related to a sweeping crackdown on Islamist supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi and allegations that the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera serves as a mouthpiece for his Muslim Brotherhood, which the government has branded a terror group.

The government has been under intense pressure from rights groups and Elshamy`s relatives to either release or formally charge him. His mother Thuraya was breathless after hearing about the release order.

"Thank God. Thank God. Thank God, and thank you all," she said. She added that she planned to go get her son yesterday evening, but it was not clear if he would be immediately released.

Elshamy was swept up with hundreds of protesters on Aug. 14 while covering the violent dispersal of a sprawling sit-in by Morsi supporters, which saw hundreds killed and thousands wounded.

Prosecutors accused Elshamy of belonging to a banned group, attacking government officials and other acts of violence and sabotage. However, authorities have never charged him with a crime.

After his hunger strike, Elshamy was put in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison, as authorities tried to get him to end it. His family said Elshamy suffers from severe anemia and problems with his kidneys. They`ve asked that he be moved out of prison to a hospital. Amnesty International described him as a "prisoner of conscience, detained solely for his journalistic work."