Egyptian authorities on Saturday freed an Al-Jazeera journalist after more than four years in detention, his family lawyer said. Mahmoud Hussein walked free from a police station Saturday afternoon, a few days after a court ordered his conditional release pending investigations into charges of publishing false information and belonging to a banned group, lawyer Gamal Eid said.
The lawyer said Hussein will have to report to a nearby police station twice a week.
The journalist’s daughter, el-Zahraa Hussein, confirmed the news in a Facebook post, saying her father had arrived home. Al-Jazeera also reported his release.
Hussein, an Egyptian working for the Qatar-based satellite network, was detained at the Cairo airport in December 2016, when he arrived on a family vacation from Doha, the network said.
Since the 2013 ouster of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi, Egyptian authorities and pro-government media have portrayed the Al-Jazeera network as Egypt’s national enemy for its sympathy toward Islamists, especially the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group.
The network, especially its Arabic service, and its staff have been embroiled in the wider political rift between Cairo and Doha. Egyptian authorities have blocked Al-Jazeera’s news website since 2017, along with dozens of other news sites deemed too critical of the government.
Hussein’s release came a month after Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain ended their dispute with Qatar, which started in 2017 and included the four countries severing their diplomatic diplomatic and economic ties with energy-rich Qatar.
The four countries accused Qatar of cozying up to Iran and financing extremist groups in the region. Doha denied the charges. Al-Jazeera was at the center of the dispute. The four nations demanded its closure among other measures, which Qatar rejected.
Egypt ranks near the bottom of press freedom indexes. It’s third on the list of the world’s top jailers of journalists, behind China and Turkey, according to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists released earlier in December.
Authorities have in recent years launched a wide-ranging crackdown on dissent, jailing thousands of people, mainly Morsi’s Islamist supporters but also a number of well-known secular activists.