Egypt frees Al Jazeera journalist after four years in detention


Journalist Mahmoud Hussein embraces with his daughter after being released by Egyptian authorities after four years in detention on accusations of publishing false news, in Abou Al Nomros, in Giza, Egypt February 6, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian authorities on Saturday released a journalist working for Qatar's Al Jazeera television network who was held in pre-trial detention for more than four years, his brother and a lawyer told Reuters.

Mahmoud Hussein, an Egyptian detained in December 2016‮‮ ‬‬after arriving in Cairo from Doha on vacation, was held on charges of spreading false news, joining a banned group and receiving foreign funds.

He was released after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt agreed in January to restore diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar, severed in 2017 over allegations that Qatar supported terrorism, a charge Doha denies.

A Cairo court ordered Hussein's release with "precautionary measures", pending investigations on Feb. 1, his brother, Nageh Hussein, and lawyer Taher Abou al-Nasr told Reuters.

Abou al-Nasr said prosecutors had not appealed against the decision, as they had against a similar decision in 2019.

It was not immediately clear what the release conditions were but Nageh Hussein said his brother may have to spend several hours a week in a police station.

Al Jazeera Media Network welcomed the news.

"No journalist should ever be subjected to what Mahmoud has suffered for the past four years for merely carrying out his profession," the TV network said in a statement on its website.

A video posted by his brother on Facebook showed relatives and neighbours receiving him with hugs, chants and drums beating in his village near Cairo.

Egypt freed three Al Jazeera journalists, an Australian, an Egyptian-Canadian and an Egyptian, in 2015 after more than one year in detention pending trial.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has accused Egypt of putting journalists behind bars to muzzle dissent, saying that 27 were in prison as of late 2020.

Egyptian authorities say legal action has only been taken against those who break the law.

(Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad, Editing by Timothy Heritage, Ros Russell and Nick Macfie)

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