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Egyptian journalist Shimaa Samy appears in custody, days after disappearance

Prior to her arrest, Samy had written about the case of detained activist Alaa Abdel Fattah and other political prisoners
Shimaa Samy, a journalist, was arrested on 20 May from her home in Alexandria (Twitter)

Egyptian journalist Shimaa Samy appeared in Cairo's state security prosecution headquarters on Saturday and is now being held in pre-trial detention, according to lawyers informed about her case.

Samy was seized from her home in Alexandria on 20 May and had been held incommunicado without any known charges for 10 days, according to Darb newspaper, where she worked as a contributor.

It is widely believed that Samy has been detained over her writings in Darb criticising the government's detention of political prisoners. Darb is a news website affiliated to the opposition Socialist People's Alliance Party. 

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According to the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), Samy is being held in provisional custody, pending investigations into charges of "aiding a terrorist group," "spreading and publishing false news," and "using a social media account to disseminate false news".

She has been added to case no. 535/2020, the same case in which Laila Soueif, mother of detained activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, was charged and later released. 

Nearly a month before her arrest, Samy highlighted in an article the case of Abdel Fattah, who went on a hunger strike in April in response to a ban on family visits. 

"Mothers cry at the gates of prisons during the heat of the day in Ramadan to give medicines and disinfectants to their children who are deprived of them," she wrote, referring to Soueif. 

'Chilling effect'

An online campaign had been launched calling for Samy's release following her disappearance, with rights advocates denouncing the continued targeting of media workers by the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

"Targeting people like Samy is meant to have a chilling effect on all journalists and civil society members who dare to express independent views," Alaa Abdel Monsef, an Egyptian human rights lawyer, told Middle East Eye earlier this week.

"There is a systematic policy of criminalisation of writing that is not conforming to the government's talking points."

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Samy is the sixth journalist to be arrested by authorities since 9 May. The others are Moataz Wadnan, Mostafa al-Aasar, Haitham Hasan Mahgoub, Sameh Hanin and Mada Masr editor-in-chief Lina Attalah, the only one to be released.

The rights group says that least 31 journalists are currently imprisoned in Egypt, one of the world's biggest jailers of media workers.

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