A British teenager who was arrested in Egypt after taking a photo from the plane window has been released from prison, after spending three weeks in jail.
Ninteen-year-old Muhammed Abdel Kasem, who was travelling to Egypt for a holiday with friends, was detained at Alexandria airport after a photo deemed incriminating was found during a search of his phone. He was accused of being a spy and collecting evidence against the Egyptian military; whilst the photo has not been released, it is believed that it captured a military helicopter in the background, unknown to Abdel Kasem.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed his release on Saturday, with his family expressing their relief at his being “cleared of all the ridiculous charges”.
In a recording uploaded to YouTube, Abdel Kasem describes his incarceration at El-Amreya second police department as an “Egyptian hellhole”.
“I was ready to give up mentally and physically,” he said of his time in prison, and proceeded to thank friends and family for their efforts and support. “I am not ready to talk right now … but in due time, I will be back.”
Abdel Kasem, who was born in Manchester and is of Pakistani heritage, is currently living in Tripoli, Libya with his family to take care of his grandmother. Preparing to sit his high school exams this summer, he had travelled to Egypt to visit friends, having previously lived in the country for four years.
In a statement, humanitarian activist and Abdel Kasem’s cousin Shareen Nawaz, who had relentlessly campaigned for his release, thanked those who had stood by the family and raised the profile of Abdel Kasem’s case.
“He is back at home safe with his family where he belongs. Bless him, what was meant to be a nice holiday turned out to be a holiday from hell!” she wrote on Facebook.
Egypt has witnessed a significant deterioration in human rights since the ousting of democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.
Amnesty International has described the situation in Egypt as the worst human rights crisis in the country in decades, with the state systematically using arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances to silence any dissent and create an atmosphere of fear. Hundreds of journalists and human rights activists have also been arrested and held without trial.