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Egypt releases journalist who broke news of plane detained in Zambia

August 21, 2023 at 10:47 am

Karim Asaad [Monasosh/Twitter]

The Egyptian authorities have released journalist Karim Asaad after being detained for 48 hours following his story on the Matsda2sh fact-checking website regarding an aircraft detained in Zambia. His release was announced on Facebook by the head of Egypt’s Journalists’ Syndicate, Khaled El-Balshy.

Matsda2sh published information about the Zambian authorities seizing a private aircraft arriving from Cairo loaded with money, metals and weapons. This led to Asaad’s arrest at 1am on Saturday.

“Our colleague Karim Asaad was arrested when a security unit of armed men in civilian clothes stormed his home,” the site announced. “The armed men only asked our colleague before his arrest about our coverage over the past few days of the Zambia plane from Egypt.”

During the past few days, the platform has increased its publication of information about the incident. The Zambian authorities announced last week the arrest of ten people, including six Egyptians, on board the private aircraft apparently carrying $5.6 million in forged gold coins, weighing more than 127 kilograms, and weapons. It revealed the names of four of the six Egyptians who were on the plane, including a former army officer, a CEO, a gold dealer and a person whose name matches the name of a police officer.

“The plane that caused a lot of confusion about its departure from Cairo Airport towards Zambia is a private plane that had transited inside Cairo Airport earlier,” said state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper, quoting an informed source. “It was not Egyptian.”

The Matsda2sh platform was established in 2018. It said that it was holding the Egyptian security authorities responsible for the safety of Karim Asaad, and the rest of the website’s team. It demanded that his lawyer should know where he was being held, the conditions of his detention and the charge against him. “Asaad believes in freedom of the press and freedom of information circulation,” it pointed out. “He is not a fugitive or affiliated with any group or party, and he has no political activity.”

In a statement on Sunday, the Egyptian Press Syndicate’s Freedoms Committee affirmed that “the re-arrest of journalists undermines the outcomes of the national dialogue and raises questions about the efforts made to close the issue of pre-trial detention in prisoner of conscience cases.” It noted that Assad’s arrest “raised the number of male and female journalists under arrest in Egypt to 24, including nine union members.”