Al Jazeera Egyptian journalist Hisham Abdel-Aziz walks free after presidential pardon
A presidential pardon Monday evening released Al Jazeera network journalist Hisham Abdel-Azizi from detention after almost four years without going on trial in Egypt, a country ranked as the world's third-worst jailer of journalists.
Abdel-Aziz, an Egyptian national, was briefly detained and his passport confiscated in June 2019 upon arriving at Cairo International Airport from the Qatari capital Doha, the home of the Al Jazeera network.
A few days later, he was interrogated by a state security prosecutor after he was summoned to receive his passport. The prosecutor then ordered him to be detained over alleged terrorism-related charges, accusations commonly used against regime critics and journalists in Egypt.
Since then, he got illegally detained for over three years without trial. Legally, pre-trial detention cannot exceed 24 months.
Several international human rights and press freedom advocates recurrently called for Abdel-Aziz's release after he had been at risk of losing his eyesight due to medical negligence in detention.
The Egyptian regime had been at odds with Al Jazeera and the Qatari regime supporting it since the coup led by the then-defence minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi overthrew late president Mohamed Morsi's regime in July 2013.
Al Jazeera and Qatar are known for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood that Morsi belonged to.
Many members of the Muslim Brotherhood, designated a "terrorist group" in Egypt since 2014, have fled the country to Qatar after the coup, while those who stayed home were mostly detained or received sentences, and many are on death row.
In January 2021, Cairo and Doha resumed diplomatic relations following a Saudi-sponsored recondition with Qatar.
In September last year, the Egyptian authorities released Ahmed Al-Najdi, another Egyptian journalist with Al Jazeera, after spending over two years in pre-trial detention. Currently, two journalists, who worked for the Qatari network, are detained in Egypt.
The state of the media and journalism in Egypt is believed to have deteriorated sharply under the regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Over 500 local and international websites of organisations and news outlets, including Human Rights Watch and Al Jazeera Arabic and English sites, have been blocked in the country.