Jazeera journalist released on bail by Egyptian authorities

CAIRO (AP) — A journalist from the pan-Arab Al Jazeera TV channel was released on bail Sunday after being interrogated for possessing     videotapes with fabricated scenes of torture by Egyptian police, her lawyer said.

According to Egyptian law, releasing on bail means that there is pending legal case, which the state can open and resume at any time.

An Egyptian documentary producer for Al Jazeera, Howaida Taha, 43, was released on a $1,750 bail by the prosecutor’s offices in Cairo, her lawyer Ahmed Helmi said.

Taha told the Associated Press she was “fine” though she had been interrogated for 13 hours by police over her two-day detention. She said the video footage she was detained for was created with actors for the purpose of a documentary film about police torture in Egypt.

“I filmed with the authorities permission,” she said on the telephone as she was being released.

Egyptian prosecutors accused Taha of “practising activities that harm the national interest of the country, possessing and giving false pictures about the internal situation in Egypt that could undermine the dignity of the country”. She was banned earlier this week from traveling to Qatar, where Al Jazeera headquarters are based, after airport police seized 50 videotapes in her luggage, an interior ministry statement said Saturday.

 Al Jazeera bureau chief in Cairo said reconstructing scenes with actors “is a well-known method in the production of documentaries”.  His TV channel “is not the only network to talk about torture,” Hussein AbdGhani added. Egyptian authorities have been increasingly sensitive about leaked videos showing citizens, both men and women, tortured in police stations.

Rights groups say torture, including sexual abuse, is routinely conducted in Egyptian police stations. The government denies systematic torture, but has investigated several officers on allegations of abuse. Some were convicted and sentenced to prison.

In November, several Egyptian bloggers posted a video showing a man naked from the waist down being sodomised with a stick. The man was later identified as Imad Kabir, 21, a bus driver.

The case sparked a public uproar, and two police officers were jailed pending an investigation into allegations they had sexually assaulted Kabir. However, the bus driver was also imprisoned last week for resisting authorities. Several leading Egyptian human rights groups condemned the arrest of  Al Jazeera journalist and said in a statement Sunday it was part of “an ongoing policy of terrorising the voices that are revealing torture” in Egypt.

AbdGhani had also been briefly detained by Egyptian police and then released on bail for his coverage of a terrorist attack at sea resort last April.

Jazeera is watched by millions of Arab viewers and has aggressively covered terrorist attacks in Egypt as well as anti-government demonstrations and the activities of opposition groups.

But the TV channel has also been accused of bias by Washington and has had its reporters barred by Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

Check Also

As Right-Wing Extremism Rises, Jihadism Still Persists

Six separate terrorist attacks took place in Europe between late September and late November of …