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Egypt: Rights groups denounce arrest of retired journalist Tawfik Ghanem

The veteran journalist has been held in pre-trial detention since 26 May after a period of enforced disappearance, his family has said
Tawfik Ghanem was interrogated about his work at Turkish news agency Anadolu before being charged with 'terrorism' offences (Facebook)

Rights groups have called on Egypt to release a retired journalist who was detained last month on "terrorism" charges. 

Tawfik Ghanem, 66, is a former regional director of Turkish news agency Anadolu. He was arrested by security forces on 21 May from his home in the Giza governorate.

His lawyer told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that once in custody, Ghanem had been quizzed about his journalistic work and political views. He was also questioned about Anadolu’s methods of news gathering and its coverage of Egyptian politics during his time as regional director. 

On Thursday, Amnesty International urged President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to release Ghanem and ensure that he had access to his family, lawyers and health care. 

His family told Human Rights Watch that police had raided Ghanem’s house and confiscated his laptop and mobile phone without providing a warrant.

They added that he was forcibly disappeared for five days with no communication with his family.

He then appeared before the State Security Prosecution in Cairo on 26 May, when he was charged with "membership of a terrorist organisation". He has since been held in pre-trial detention, his lawyer confirmed. 

'Sisi’s government should immediately release Ghanem and end this pattern of arbitrarily detaining people for their opinions'

- Joe Stork, HRW

“Tawfik Ghanem’s arrest and enforced disappearance on 21 May shows that Egypt’s crackdown against journalists continues unabated,” said Joe Stork, deputy director for MENA at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“President Sisi’s government should immediately release Ghanem and end this pattern of arbitrarily detaining people for their opinions.”

According to the CPJ’s prison census, Egypt held at least 27 journalists in prison for their work, as of December. 

Egypt's government has long been criticised for its use of “terrorism” charges to hold human rights defenders and civil society activists in extended pre-trial detention.

Sisi, who overthrew the country's first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi in a 2013 coup, has overseen an extensive crackdown on political dissent which has steadily tightened in recent years.

An estimated 60,000 political prisoners are being held in Egyptian jails, according to rights groups.