"When I die, I hope that my biography will include just one line: Mohamed Mohamed Mounir Youssef participated in the revolution of January 25 2011 honestly and sincerely."
Mohamed Mounir, Egyptian journalist, died of COVID-19 infection in an Egyptian prison.
" The murder of the great Egyptian journalist, Mohamed Mounir, is no less hideous than the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Egyptian journalists have demanded an international investigation into Mounir's death."
Journalists and political activists have mourned the death of well-known journalist Mohamed Mounir, who died at the age of 65, as a result of being infected with coronavirus. Mounir was infected with coronavirus during his detention by the Egyptian authorities for two weeks, before being released, while suffering from the symptoms of the deadly virus.
Egyptian journalists considered that Mohamed Mounir was deliberately assassinated, and his body was cut without a saw, but rather by the coronavirus. These journalists consider that it is premeditated murder to arrest a person who has exceeded 65 years of age, suffers from diseases of aging and obesity, is breathing with difficulty, and is then transferred to the Tora Prison Hospital where the infected prisoners with coronavirus are.
One month ago, the Egyptian authorities raided Mohamed Mounir's house, broke the door of his apartment, and took some of its contents, but he was not there at the time.
Murder by coronavirus
Two days later, Mohamed Mounir was arrested from his home on June 15, transferred to the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP), and ordered to be imprisoned for 15 days pending investigations. Mounir was charged with misuse of social media and spreading false news, and the evidence was only some of Mounir's posts on Facebook.
Despite legal claims that Mounir should be released, given his age and worsening illnesses, the SSSP decided on June 27 to renew Mounir's imprisonment for 15 days. On July 1, Mounir's health worsened, and he was transferred to Tora Liman Hospital for a medical examination.
Journalists say that Mounir's transfer to that hospital was a death sentence and a full-fledged assassination, described by Egyptian journalist Wael Kandil as, "Murder by the coronavirus dose." Tora Liman Hospital receives a number of prisoners who are infected with coronavirus and putting Mounir there meant that his infection was inevitable.
On July 2, the SSSP decided to release Mohamed Mounir, and the next day he had already arrived at his home. However, on July 4, Mounir's health deteriorated significantly, he published a video clip complaining of the symptoms of infection with coronavirus, and asked the Egyptian Syndicate to intervene quickly to transfer him to any hospital, as hospitals are not receiving any patients having reached full capacity under coronavirus. On July 5, Mounir's body temperature was high, and his sons had to put him on a ventilator. On July 7, Mounir released a second video in which he called for help, saying that he was suffocating and unable to breathe. That video caused a sensation among journalists. Mounir was transferred to Agouza Hospital the next day, but he died less than one week later on July 13.
The saw of Khashoggi
Egyptian journalists demanded that the Egyptian regime be held accountable for the murder of Mounir. Egyptian journalist Mohamed Moustafa said on his Facebook page, "The murder of the great Egyptian journalist Mohamed Mounir is no less terrible than the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi … but how many international tribunals will investigate the circumstances of his death?"
Sudanese journalist Hassan Ibrahim also wrote, "Colleague Mohamed Mounir joined Jamal Khashoggi, and he fell among the martyrs of the word. He lived free and entered the detention centre and the detention was the means of killing him." He added: "In the conditions of the epidemic and the rapid spread of the disease, his infection was certain, and because he is sick, his death is certain … another crime against freedom of the press in our afflicted Arab world."
Palestinian anchor, Farah al-Barqawi, said that: "Starting from cutting Jamal Khashoggi by the saw, to the assassination of Hisham al-Hashemi by bullets, and ending with Mohamed Mounir's murder by coronavirus. Weapons to break pens, and blood is shed to prevent ink flow."
Egyptian journalist Ahmed Ibrahim called for an international investigation into the killing of Mohamed Mounir, stressing that it was a murder just like the assassination of Khashoggi, but without a saw. He added that this time the saw was the coronavirus, which was intentionally transmitted to Mounir.
An Egyptian journalist, who was previously arrested and detained, told Egypt Watch that the mere arrest of a person like Mohamed Mounir, at this age, and with his health conditions and in the light of the poor conditions inside Egyptian prisons, means a death sentence and his assassination, even without coronavirus.
The Egyptian journalist mentioned that many young people, who had not suffered any diseases, died inside the Egyptian prisons under poor medical care and ventilation, even before the outbreak of the coronavirus. He added that in light of the outbreak of coronavirus in prisons, and the presence of those infected with the virus in Tora Prison Hospital where Mounir was transferred, it cannot be considered a natural death anyway, but a premeditated assassination.
Egyptian journalists stated that the Egyptian regime intentionally tried to assassinate Mounir's opinion over many years, which began with his arbitrary dismissal from the newspaper Al-Youm7 where he worked as the deputy editor-in-chief, due to his anti-regime opinions.
Mounir, along with a number of other journalists, was dismissed in July 2017 from Youm7 daily, which is an organ of the Egyptian authorities, because of his opposition to the maritime border demarcation agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, according to which Egypt ceded the islands of Tiran and Sanafir.
After that, Mounir worked for a while as managing editor of the Masr Alarabia news website, but in April 2018, the authorities closed the site's headquarters and arrested its chief-in-editor, Adel Sabry, who is still in prison.
Mounir then resorted to writing articles for the Al Jazeera website, and was also known for his telephone statements to many opposition channels, during which he criticised the policies of the Egyptian regime.
Mounir mourns himself
After his death, his fellow journalists reposted a number of his posts on Facebook, during which he mourned himself before his death. In one of these posts, Mounir wrote: "When I die, I hope my biography will include just one line: Mohamed Mohamed Mounir Youssef participated in the revolution of January 25, 2011 honestly and sincerely."
In a video clip just days before his arrest, Mounir said: "They (the Egyptian authorities) threaten me, they tell me you are old, stop that (criticising the regime), and I tell them do you know what it means that I am old, old means that I am close to meeting my Lord, this means that I am not afraid except of him, and that I am only subjected to Him."
He also said in another video: "I am 65-years-old, and this means that I am old … I will not meet my Lord while I am working to satisfy you (authorities) at the expense of him … I will meet my Lord and I am working to satisfy him by saying the truth, and I am not afraid or need the mercy of anyone except God." Mounir posted a photo of himself standing in front of an empty grave pointing to its door, apparently, he had prepared it for himself, and commented: "The last house … how amazing."
Egyptian journalists have called for the Egyptian authorities to be held accountable for the assassination of Mounir, especially for the fact that he was detained for expressing his opinions. Besides Mounir, dozens of journalists are still being held by the Egyptian regime, most of whom have not been convicted.
But observers say that any investigation carried out by the Egyptian authorities into the matter of Mounir's death cannot be relied upon, because the judicial system itself was involved in his death, when the SSSP issued orders to detain him in bad conditions despite his old age and health conditions. "Can we see Agnès Callamard (UNHRC Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions) investigate the assassination of Mounir?" an Egyptian journalist asked.
This article first appeared in EgyptWatch on 14 July 2020
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.