Press statement: Egyptian National Security Investigations Service detain Egyptian filmmaker for 9 days, charging him with spreading ‘false news’ to foreign countries
Friday 4:08pm (Cairo time) 31 January 2014:
Jeremy Hodge, 25, an American translator who was secretly held in an Egyptian jail for four days, has returned to the United States and is calling for the release of his flatmate, Egyptian film-maker Hossam al-Din Salman al-Meneai, who is still in detention. Meneai and Hodge were detained without warrant or charge at 10:45pm (Cairo time) on Wednesday 22 January 2014 from their apartment in Dokki, Cairo, by 12 Egyptian National Security Investigators (Mabahith al-Amn al-Watany).
During the pair’s detention, Hodge says he witnessed Meneai being regularly beaten and psychologically assaulted by Egyptian police and National Security; at one point, a police officer put a gun to Meneai’s head and threatened to pull the trigger. Hodge described the harsh conditions in which the two were held in Dokki police station. They were initially handcuffed to chairs and denied access to food for 36 hours.
Since Sunday, 26 January, lawyers say have had access to Meneai, and have confirmed he is being held at Dokki police station. They are able to see him only very briefly, five days a week, and have not been allowed to interview him privately. Initial requests for information by lawyers were repeatedly denied, after which the lawyers began a process of filing missing person’s reports with relevant authorities.
Meneai does not appear to have sustained any life-threatening injury or to have been tortured methodically. Hodge was next to Meneai through most of these beatings and says he was made to watch them, although he was not harmed physically himself.
Egyptian prosecutors have extended Meneai’s detention by 15 days, pending investigation into charges of spreading false news to foreign countries and endangering Egypt’s security and public peace. A news report by Al-Youm al-Sabe‘said this was in part because they characterized the deposal of Mohamed Mursi as a “military coup.”
According to that report, Counselor Ahmad al-Baqli, First Attorney-general of North Giza, also ordered an inquiry to determine whether or not the two accused have “accomplices”. Al-Youm al-Sabe‘ also reported that the prosecution said Meneai’s laptop contained videos and images of the dispersal of the summer 2013 Nahda and Rabaa sit-ins, and videos of the 25 January revolution and events that followed.
Hodge was released on Sunday 26 January and returned to the US after negotiations between Egyptian authorities and the US embassy in Cairo. Hodge says the reasons they were detained are still unclear, though initial questioning was focused on Meneai’s work as a documentary film-maker and Hodge’s ability to speak Arabic.
“We are deeply concerned about our friend Hossam, an Egyptian citizen who does not have the benefit of diplomatic assistance. Like Jeremy, he was detained in a location that was initially kept secret for over 72 hours, even from his lawyers,” said Nizar Manek, the two men’s other flatmate. A British citizen, Manek was not taken into custody, but was a witness to the initial two-and-a-half hour questioning in their home, before his two friends were detained. “We can only hope he will be released, without further harm.”
“There is a disconnect between the legally vague charges and the public statements of Egypt’s foreign minister Nabil Fahmy relating to arrest warrants and fair trial standards,” says Manek, an independent journalist who is now in London and available to brief anyone that can assist Meneai. “Mr Fahmy should feel obligated to take up this matter up with the interim government, and the judiciary should take this opportunity to interpret the spirit of the provisions in Egypt’s new constitution relating to due process, personal freedom, freedom of thought, and freedom of the press as expansively as possible and in line with international standards. Hossam’s case will prove an obvious test of the credibility of those non-specific constitutional articles. As such, Hossam's case should be watched closely by all Egyptians and internationally by anyone considering stepping into or investing in the Brave New Egypt.”
Concerns regarding Meneai’s case
Though Hodge and Meneai were detained together from their apartment and were initially both charged with the same accusations, the 26 year oldAmerican from Los Angeles and the 36-year-old Egyptian from North Sinai received very different treatment.
According to Hodge, Meneai faced much harsher questioning and physical violence during their initial three-and-a-half day detention. He was also held in the ostensibly more dangerous holding cell for persons detained for criminal offences, whereas Hodge was placed in the cell for political prisoners.
Meneai was then brought before a court and charged with two offences, whereas Hodge was released without charge and allowed to return to his home country. The Egyptian filmmaker was not offered bail and his detention was extended for 15 days.
Friends and family areconcerned about the absence of a clear explanation for Meneai’s initial detention and the vagueness of the charges brought against him.They are also concerned about Meneai’s physical well-being, considering the length of his renewed detention, during which further physical and psychological violence may be used against him.
Meneai and Hodge’s friends released a media statement on Friday, 24 January in Egypt Independent, after their lawyers declared the pair missing and told friends they were in the process of filing kidnap reports.
As such, the development and outcome of Hossam's case should be watched by every Egyptian and every international observer.
First press statement – 24 January: Egyptian State Security Investigations Service detain US citizen and Egyptian filmmaker without charge in unknown location www.egyptindependent.com//news/press-statement-egyptian-state-security-investigations-service-detain-us-citizen-and-egyptian-f
1) Ahmed al-Sandabasy, Hisham Mubarak Law Center (Cairo): (+20) (0)1228289396
2) Nizar Manek, undetained British flatmate (London) – Twitter: @japanizar
3) Jeremy Hodge, detained and released American flatmate (Los Angeles) – Twitter: @JeremyHodge2
4) Drew Brammer – friend of the three flatmates (Cairo): (+20) (0)1121655616 – Email: [email protected] – Twitter: @drewfordski