Cairo — Last summer, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy was one of thousands of protesters who took to Tahrir Square to give Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the Egyptian army chief, a mandate to "confront terrorism" -- the Egyptian government's euphemism for cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood.Tomorrow, he will appear in court on the receiving end of that mandate: He stands accused of running a terrorist cell from a luxury hotel in Cairo.
Fahmy, who was hired in September as Al Jazeera English's bureau chief here, is one of three journalists from the channel who have spent nearly seven weeks behind bars. They were arrested in late December and have since disappeared into Cairo's Tora Prison, held alongside Muslim Brotherhood leaders and jihadists. After more than a month in detention, they were finally charged in late January with everything from broadcasting false news to terrorism, and their first court hearing will be held on Feb. 20.
Foreign journalists here describe the arrests and trumped-up charges as a warning shot to the entire press corps, the most egregious signs of a press crackdown that has seen dozens of journalists detained or attacked.
But it is no coincidence that the charges are directed at a network that Egyptian security officials often describe as the media wing of an enemy state. The Qatar-owned Al Jazeera has continued to give airtime to Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist leaders, emerging as the only high-profile outlet for their members since the Egyptian government's brutal crackdown last summer.