Dear Prime Minister and Foreign Minister
Austin Mackell is a young freelance journalist, who moved to Egypt in February last year. His writings have been featured in respected media outlets across the world, including New Matilda, The Guardian, Al-Akhbar and Crikey.
On 11 February, Mackell, his translator, Aliya Alwi, US masters student Derek Ludovici, and taxi driver Zakaria Ahmad drove to Mahalla al- Kubra. They sought to interview Kamal el-Fayoumi, a well known trade unionist and labour activist. Upon arriving, they were attacked and threatened by a small mob. They were instructed by a police officer to come to a police station for their own protection.
Over the next 56 hours, they were held in custody. They were all repeatedly interrogated.
During this time, they were allowed minimal communication with the outside world. Some courageous Egyptian activists, like Shahira Abouelleil, Kareem el-Behairy, and Omar Kamel, followed the detainees, tweeted about their location to the outside world, and brought along lawyers and journalists to help them. They also provided the detainees with food.
Mackell, Alwi and Ludovivi have been told they have been charged with “inciting people to vandalise public property and governmental buildings”. Specifically it is alleged they promised children money if they threw rocks at the Qism El-Tani police station in Mahalla. If convicted, they are advised they face imprisonment for 5-7 years. [Ahmad was later released without charge, as was el-Fayoumi who was arrested when he visited the police station to assist Mackell.]…
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