Back from Sudan
After two weeks of detention in Sudan, Egyptian journalist Shaimaa Adel has returned to Cairo on the presidential plane, reports Reem Leila
Shaimaa Adel, 25, a journalist with the privately-owned Al-Watan newspaper, has been released from detention after being arrested by the Sudanese authorities on 3 July. She returned to Cairo on 16 July on the presidential plane with President Mohamed Mursi, who was returning from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
Adel had been arrested after covering student protests against inflation and government measures in Sudan, being taken into detention at a cyber-café in the Al-Hajj Youssef district after publishing a report on the mass protests that erupted on 29 June.
The protests spread throughout the country over the following days, with the protesters demanding the toppling of Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, who has ruled the country since 1989.
The protests were met with a violent security crackdown that also targeted Sudanese and foreign journalists.
Journalists and TV crews awaited Adel's arrival at Cairo airport, but were kept in a press room when she arrived. She then immediately left with her family, disappointing the media.
However, she spoke later to the media expressing her "profound gratitude" to President Mursi for her release. "Mursi's intervention to rescue me means that Egyptian dignity has become a red line and is untouchable. If it was not for the president I would have been still under arrest," said Adel.
After Adel's release, Mursi invited her to have breakfast with him. "President Mursi asked me about my age and parents. After we finished breakfast he advised me to take care of myself," she added.
Adel told the press she spent two week in political detention in Om Durman where she could not meet the Egyptian ambassador. "Three security police officers were interrogating me. They accused me of taking photos without a permit and participating in causing unrest."
An announcement on Mursi's Facebook page said that Adel had been released a few hours after a meeting between Mursi and Al-Bashir in the Ethiopian capital on 15 July as the two men attended the African Summit.
The Sudanese embassy in Cairo confirmed the news on the same day, embassy spokesperson Bakir Hanin saying that Al-Bashir had ordered the Sudanese authorities to release Adel at the request of the Egyptian president.
"Adel was arrested in the Sudanese capital Khartoum because she did not have an official permit from the government to cover the incidents. At the same time, she was inciting the protesters to commit acts of sabotage," Hanin said.
Adel, who previously worked for the privately-owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, has covered many of the revolutions of the Arab Spring, also working in the Libyan capital Tripoli and being injured while covering the Syrian uprising.
On 7 July, several days before Adel's release, dozens of activists and journalists demonstrated in front of the Sudanese embassy in Cairo, demanding Adel's immediate release.
"Public pressure was another main reason for releasing Adel," Hanin commented.
Adel's parents participated in the protests, her mother having gone on hunger strike until her daughter was released.
"My daughter went to Syria and Libya to cover the unrest there. I cannot believe she was then arrested in Sudan, a sister country," she said. Immediately after Adel's arrest, her whereabouts was unknown for two days, during which diplomatic efforts were made by the Egyptian government to reach her.
A further protest took place in front of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria to express solidarity with Adel, the protesters urging Mursi to intervene to ensure the journalist's release.
During a visit by Sudanese Vice President Ali Othman to Egypt last week, several political figures, such as former presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabahi and Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, also called for the immediate release of Adel.
At the same time, the Egyptian Press Syndicate threatened to cut off relations with the Sudanese Press Syndicate if the Sudanese authorities did not release Adel. In a press release issued by the syndicate, it called on the Sudanese government to respect international rules that protect journalists in conflict areas.
On 13 July, several human rights organisations criticised Adel's detention by the Sudanese police after she had been initially set to be released on 11 July.
A press release issued on the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) website condemned Adel's arrest, saying that the "Sudanese security authorities used force while arresting Adel."
The ANHRI statement warned the Sudanese authorities against continuing to target journalists in order to cover up their use of violence against peaceful demonstrators.
"The Sudanese authorities should be smart enough to learn lessons from neighbouring countries that have rejected their old regimes and not to give priority to security solutions over political ones," the press release added.
Ahmed Omar, head of the International Centre to Support Rights and Freedoms (ICSRF), also denounced Adel's detention. "Egyptian journalists are not criminals or suspects. They are just doing their job, which is to cover the protests," Omar said.
In a similar incident, Salma El-Werdani, who works for the Bloomberg news agency, was arrested in Sudan on 21 June for refusing an order from the Sudanese authorities to stop covering the protests.
El-Werdani was deported to Egypt a few days later.