CAIRO (AP) – Egyptian authorities detained the youngest son of jailed former President Mohammed Morsi on Wednesday for questioning on charges of spreading “fake news”, then released him on bail.
State security men and a special forces officer took Abdullah Morsi at dawn along with his ID and mobile phone from the family house outside Cairo, his brother Ahmed said. The brother later confirmed that Abdullah Morsi had been released, but said the phone wasn’t returned. Neither of the two responded to further requests for comment.
Attorney General Nabil Sadek issued a brief statement late Wednesday ordering the release on bail of 5,000 Egyptian pounds on the charges after questioning by Egypt’s Supreme State Security Prosecution.
Abdullah Morsi told The Associated Press in an interview last week that he would be pressing a campaign to seek more visitation rights and better health care for his ailing father, who has been held in solitary confinement since he was overthrown in 2013 by the army, which was led then by current President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
Abdullah Morsi, a 25-year-old business student, has been waiting outside Cairo’s notorious Tora prison for hours once a month to leave money for food and necessities for his father, hoping for a chance to see him. But almost every time for five years he has been denied.
The family said it has seen the former president only three times since his arrest, and all in prison visits closely monitored by police officers.
The family said 67-year-old Morsi is suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure that have been exacerbated by harsh conditions, including sleeping on the floor and years of isolation. Relatives say that at times he has been in a diabetic coma.
Abdullah Morsi said his father has “no idea what’s going on in the country since he was arrested, they don’t allow him newspapers,” any access to news, or even a pen to write with.
With Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group banned and branded a terrorist organisation, and the family banned from travel, a campaign to improve Morsi’s conditions has been run from London, where several prominent British politicians have backed it.
During his tumultuous year in office, Morsi’s opponents accused the Brotherhood of trying to use election victories to dominate the state. Morsi cracked down at times on protesters and used executive powers to force through policies, but he never managed to control the levers of power, facing opposition in the courts and among police.
In the end, his opponents organised mass demonstrations against his rule, and it was against this backdrop that el-Sissi overthrew him.
Since then, the government has largely crushed the Brotherhood with a heavy crackdown. Tens of thousands of Egyptians have been arrested since 2013, the vast majority of them accused of working with or for the group, said the US-based Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.
Vaguely worded legislation in Egypt allows wide-ranging prosecution on accusations of “fake news”.
Authorities have over the past year blocked some 500 websites, including those of independent media and rights groups. Authorities have claimed such websites supported “terrorism” or reported “fake news”.
Egypt was ranked 161 out of 180 countries in the 2017 Press Freedom Index, according to Reporters Without Borders advocacy group.
Parliament has passed a bill targetting popular social media accounts that authorities accuse of publishing “fake news”, the latest move in a five-year-old drive to suppress dissent and silence independent sources of news.