An Egyptian court ordered the “conditional release” of journalist Hisham Gaafar, who has been held in pretrial detention since October 2015 over his alleged “membership in an outlawed group”, a charge he has repeatedly denied.
Gaafar’s lawyer Abol Ela Madi told Anadolu Agency that the court has ordered Gaafar’s release on the condition that certain “precautionary measures” will be taken.
These measures, according to the Egyptian legal system, include that Gaafar will have to report to the local police station several times a week.Madi added that prosecutors have not appealed the court’s release order, which is an indication that the order is likely to be carried out.
Gaafar was the head of a Cairo-based NGO, Mada for Media Development. In October 2015 police stormed his office and arrested him.
He has been held in pre-trial detention since, in the notorious high-security Aqrab prison. His detention period has far exceeded the two-year constitutional limit on preventive, pretrial imprisonment.
Gaafar’s family and numerous human rights groups and activists have repeatedly stressed his innocence and called for his release.
They have cited the deteriorating health of the 53-year-old journalist, lamented the inadequacy of medical care at the Aqrab prison, and demanded that they be allowed to cover the expenses of his health treatment in a private hospital.
Since a bloody military coup ousted President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, Egyptian authorities banned the Muslim Brotherhood group and arrested and tried its members. Scores of independent journalists and activists have also been arrested and accused of membership in the outlawed group despite their denial of having any affiliation to the Brotherhood.