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Hunger-striking journalist released

Al Jazeera journalist AbdallahElshamy, 13 others released due to failing health

An undated handout picture shows Al-Jazeera Arabic news correspondent in Cairo Abdullah al-Shami who was arrested by Egyptian police last year.  (AFP Photo)
An undated handout picture shows Al-Jazeera Arabic news correspondent in Cairo Abdullah al-Shami who was arrested by Egyptian police last year.
(AFP Photo)

After more than 306 days in prison without charge and 147 days on hunger strike, on Monday night the prosecutor general’s office ordered the release of Al Jazeera journalist Abdallah Elshamy, who was arrested during the violent dispersal of the pro-Mohamed Morsi sit-in at Rabaa El-Adaweya.

Announced in a Monday press release, Elshamy and 13 other people will be released from custody due to deteriorating health, according to a statement by Al Jazeera.

“This is a relief rather than a cause for celebration. Abdallah has been through a terrible ordeal for over ten months,” said Al Jazeera spokesman Osama Saeed.“He’ll want to spend time with his family and recuperate. When he’s ready, we look forward to seeing him back in action, doing the vital job of journalism that he so clearly loves.”

Elshamy’s family and friends were still awaiting his release on Tuesday afternoon, said his brother, journalist Mosa’ab Elshamy.

“[Elshamy’s release] is something we’ve been working on for a few days,” said Mosa’ab Elsahmy, “but it was only official yesterday.”

“The first thing we’re going to do [when Elshamy is released] is get him checked into a hospital and make sure everything is ok.”

Medical tests by an independent doctor in mid-May revealed that due to the months long hunger strike, Elshamy is suffering from “acute anaemia, the onset of kidney dysfunction, low blood pressure and hypoglycaemia, and his weight had dropped from 108 to 68 kilograms”, according to his lawyer.

On Tuesday Egyptian-American hunger-striking political detainee Mohamed Soltan was transferred from prison to the intensive care unit El-Manial Teaching Hospital, according to Soltan’s sister, HanaaSoltan.

A spokesman from the United States Embassy in Cairo said a consular officer visited Soltan in the hospital on 11 June, though the Ministry of Interior denied that Soltan had been moved to a hospital.

“We continue to monitor Mr. Soltan’s treatment and prison conditions, and to work with Egyptian authorities to ensure that those conditions are consistent with those of any U.S. citizen incarcerated in Egypt,” said the US spokesman.

Soltan, who graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in economics, served as press liaison for the Muslim Brotherhood at the Rabaa sit-in last summer, and was shot in the arm during its dispersal.

Hanaa Soltan denies that Soltan is a Muslim Brotherhood member, nor has he ever been one.

“We were overjoyed for Abdallah [Elshamy] and his family at the news of his release,” said Hanaa Soltan.

“Of course under normal circumstances, Abdallah’s release is a ray of hope, but Mohamed’s condition has been critical for some time now and the court has shown no semblance of justice or humanity towards him.  We are hoping the [prosecutor general’s] office will demonstrate a departure from that. “

In addition to Elshamy, three journalists working for Al Jazeera’s English network have been detained since being arrested on 29 December. Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, correspondent Peter Greste, and producer Baher Mohamed are currently standing trial for spreading false news, and are accused of “creating a terrorist media network”. The verdict for their case is scheduled for 23 June.

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