The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) filed on Monday a report to the Prosecutor General calling for the release of Syrian photojournalist Mohamed Hayyan.
Hayyan was arrested while covering a protest outside the headquarters of the Ministry of Interior on Thursday. He remains in detention despite the prosecution’s decision to release him.
Fahd Al-Banna, AFTE lawyer who filed the lawsuit, accused the authorities of arbitrarily detaining Hayyan and accused the prosecution of failing to follow through with its orders.
Al-Banna said that the prosecution ordered Hayyan’s release on the condition that he is not held for involvement in other cases and that he has a valid residence in Egypt, the verification of which is the responsibility of the Customs Authority. However, Al-Banna said the latter did not contact the Syrian embassy to confirm the validity of his residence, but referred his case to the Homeland Security Authority.
Hayyan was accused of taking photos of the protest without a licence and illegally staying in Egypt. Ashraf Al-Anani, from the Ministry of Interior’s media office, earlier said Hayyan was arrested without a passport and without a permit to practice journalism from the State Information Service (SIS).
Al-Banna denied the existence of any laws which necessitate acquiring a licence to take photos unless a military institution is the object to be photographed.
Mohamed Al-Menady, from the Ministry of Interior’s media office, said that any foreign reporters working in Egypt must be registered at the Cairo Foreign Press Association, which is part of the SIS.
The AFTE lawyer also said that Hayyan was renewing his passport at the Syrian embassy and therefore only had a copy of the passport on him when arrested. He added that while Hayyan was expected to retrieve his passport on the day he was arrested, the Customs Authority could easily confirm the validity of his residence if they contacted the Syrian Embassy.
“Moreover, Hayyan isn’t just a foreigner staying in Egypt, he’s a refugee,” Al-Banna said. According to Al-Banna, Hayyan is subject to deportation from Egypt.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemned on Sunday Egypt’s security apparatuses’ “targeting and mistreatment of Syrian citizens,” with Hayyan’s arrest representing the latest such incident.
Domestic and international human rights organisations have repeatedly accused Egypt of mistreating Syrian refugees. On 17 October, Badr Abdelatty, Egypt’s foreign ministry spokesman, denied any mistreatment of Syrians. He said that Syrian refugees in Egypt are treated “in a dignified way … and receive the same treatment as Egyptians in regards to health care and education.”
Egypt hosts 126,000 Syrian refugees, UNHCR figures indicate, but government estimates in June showed the number to be around 250,000 to 300,000. The overall number of Syrian refugees has surpassed the 2 million mark.