The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today reiterated its demand for the release of IPI member and Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein from Egyptian prison.

Hussein has spent 1,400 days in the notorious Tora prison as the Egyptian government has repeatedly and illegally extended his detention, accusing him of broadcasting “fake news” and “defaming” state institutions.

“We urge the Egyptian government to release our member Mahmoud Hussein without further delay”, IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said. “His detention is not just illegal but also a gross violation of human rights by the al-Sisi regime. The international community had turned a blind eye to the arrest of journalists.”

The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded in January 2018 that the conditions of Hussein’s imprisonment amounted to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”. Despite these observations Egypt has continued to detain Hussein and denied him access to medical attention.

Hussein was originally arrested by Egyptian authorities upon his arrival in Cairo on a trip to visit family on December 20, 2016. He was interrogated for over 14 hours without a lawyer present, before being released and then arrested again days later.

Five days later, Egypt’s interior ministry publicly accused him of “disseminating false news and receiving monetary funds from foreign authorities in order to defame the state’s reputation”.

Since then, Hussein’s detention has been extended more than a dozen times.

In May 2019, a decision to release him under “precautionary measures” was controversially overturned at the last minute.

Earlier that week an Egyptian court had upheld a May 21 decision to release him under “precautionary measures” which would have freed him from jail, while retaining some restrictions on his movement.

In preparation for his imminent release, he had been transferred from Cairo’s Tora prison to a holding cell in Giza, where his final clearance would be approved by the National Security Agency’s office.

However, in the middle of the proceedings, as his family waited outside to greet him, Hussein was suddenly transferred to the office of the prosecutor for state security and then sent back to jail.

Authorities announced that a new investigation had been opened against him and he was taken back to Tora prison in the capital, with no other details or reason given for yet another extension of his detention.

According to IPI’s data, more than 60 journalists are currently held behind bars in Egypt’s crowded prisons and as testimonials attest, often under poor conditions.

In June, IPI had urged the Egyptian government to release all journalists amid concerns over the spread of COVID-19 in prisons. A month later, well-known journalist Mohamed Mounir, died after contracting COVID-19 while in pre-trial detention in Cairo’s notorious Tora prison.