Al Jazeera says long-held correspondent released in Egypt

This is a locator map for Egypt with its capital, Cairo. (AP Photo) (Uncredited, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

DUBAI – The satellite news network Al Jazeera said Monday that a correspondent for one of its channels held in Egypt since 2019 has been released from pre-trial detention.

The Qatar-funded network in Doha said that Hisham Abdel Aziz, a producer with its Al Jazeera Mubasher channel, had been freed.

Authorities in Egypt did not acknowledge his release. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

He was freed on Sunday, said Khaled el-Balshy, head of Egypt’s Journalists’ Union. Abdel Aziz's wife posted an image Sunday of Abdel Aziz online, thanking God for him.

The network has said that Abdel Aziz, an Egyptian who had been based in Qatar for the public affairs channel, was stopped at Cairo International Airport in June 2019 while he was traveling for a family trip. They say he was “subjected to enforced disappearance for around a month” before being found in custody. In the time since, authorities repeatedly had applied and been granted repeated 45-day extensions for his detention.

Al Jazeera long had been targeted by Cairo since the country's 2013 military takeover that installed Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sissi into the presidency. Qatar had backed Egypt's elected president, the late Islamist Mohammed Morsi, after the 2011 Arab Spring. Morsi belonged to the pan-Arab Islamic group the Muslim Brotherhood, viewed by some Gulf Arab nations as a threat to their hereditary rule.

Amid the 2013 takeover, Al Jazeera's channels covered many of the Brotherhood's protests live, to the anger of Egypt's military government. Egypt revoked Al Jazeera’s press credentials, raided its offices and arrested several reporters. The arrest and trial of three Al Jazeera English journalists — Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed — sparked an international outcry.

The three received 10-year prison sentences, but were later released in 2015.

Egypt joined Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in boycotting the country in a political dispute that lasted from 2017 until 2021.

However, the release comes as Qatar has been normalizing its diplomatic relations with those who launched the boycott. El-Sissi also attended the opening last year of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar at the invitation of its ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Al Jazeera says two more of its journalists remained detained by Egypt, who also had been detained while on vacations there.