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Egypt Frees Journalist Detained While Covering Luxor Unrest

Basma Mostafa, a journalist for al-Manassa news website, whom the Egyptian authorities detained after she traveled to the southern city of Luxor on Oct. 3, 2020, to cover the alleged killing of a man during a police raid last week.

Egyptian authorities have released a local journalist detained over the weekend in the southern city of Luxor where she was covering the alleged killing of a man during a police raid, her lawyer said Wednesday.

Basma Mostafa walked free late Tuesday from a police station in Cairo, a day after prosecutors ordered her release pending an investigation into accusations that she disseminated false news through social media, said rights lawyer Karim Abdel-Rady, who is also Mostafa's husband.

The 30-year-old mother of two was in Luxor on Saturday morning to cover unrest in the village of el-Awamiya, following the death of a man allegedly at the hands of police last week, according to Amnesty International.

Mostafa's employer, the al-Manassa news website, lost contact with her. She appeared on Sunday at the headquarters of Egypt's state security prosecution in the capital, Cairo, where prosecutors interrogated her and ordered her to remain in custody for 15 days, according to Abdel-Rady.

Public Prosecutor Hamada el-Sawy ordered her release on Monday pending investigation into accusations of using social media to "disseminate fake news aiming at disturbing public security and peace." Mostafa denied the accusations, saying that she was doing her work as a journalist.

Also Wednesday, prosecutors said they had ordered the arrest of the Luxor man, Eiwis el-Rawy, along with several relatives, for interrogation on terror-related charges. They were subsequently notified that el-Rawy had died resisting arrest by police sent to his home.

The prosecutors' statement also said el-Rawy's father had denied reports that an officer slapped him and that his son then came to his defense, only to have the officer beat him to death.

The statement was the first official comment from authorities on the man's death, which had stirred up controversy over the past week.

Mostafa had also recently reported on the death of a young man while in police detention in Cairo in September, and an alleged 2014 gang rape of a 17-year-old girl that surfaced recently and shocked the conservative Egyptian society.
Several media watchdogs decried Mostafa's detention as the latest in a widening government crackdown on dissent and media.

In recent years, Egypt has imprisoned dozens of reporters and occasionally expelled some foreign journalists. It remains among the world's worst jailers of journalists, along with Turkey and China, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

More than 60 journalists are behind bars in Egypt's overcrowded prisons, according to the International Press Institute. Ravi R. Prasad, the institute's director of advocacy, said Mostafa's detention was an "extremely outrageous and a crude attempt to not only silence her but also her husband," a respected human rights lawyer.

Since the beginning of September, authorities in Egypt have arrested five journalists, including Mostafa, said Mahmoud Kamel, a board member of Egypt's Journalists' Union.