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Fears for Egyptian journalist forcibly disappeared after five years in exile

THE family of an Egyptian journalist who was forcibly disappeared at Cairo airport last month have raised concerns over his whereabouts and safety.

Jamal al-Jamal has not been seen since he returned to the country from Turkey on February 22. 

Lawyers for the family said that Egyptian authorities ordered his 15-day detention on charges of working for the opposition media in Istanbul on Sunday. 

Mr Jamal wrote an article criticising the government in 2014 and then general and now President Abdel Farah al-Sisi issued the journalist a warning.

Fearing for his safety, he fled the country and had been working for the opposition channel Al-Sharq based in Istanbul.

But his son Baha al-Jamlal said he was missing his family and decided to end his five-year exile, returning to Egypt last month.

“My father was tired and wanted to come back to Egypt. The moment he reached Cairo International Airport he disappeared mysteriously, and we could not reach him,” he said.

Suspects can be held on pretrial detention for a maximum of two years in Egypt, but even then such measures are only to be used in an emergency.

But opposition activists often find this period is repeatedly extended. Mr Jamal suffers from diabetes and other health conditions and supporters fear for his health. 

Many prisoners are denied access to healthcare. Some 100 died in Egyptian jails last year due to medical negligence.

Thousands of activists, journalists and lawyers have been detained since 2013, with at least 60,000 political prisoners behind bars on pretrial detention.

The country ranks 166th out of 180 countries in media watchdog Reporters Without Borders’ 2020 world press freedom index.

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