In Court

Nadine Marroushi

A video of the imprisoned al-Jazeera journalist Abdullah El-Shamy was released online two days ago. The 26-year-old, arrested by the Egyptian authorities last summer, has yet to be charged. He has been on hunger strike for more than 100 days. According to his family, he has lost a third of his body weight, dropping from 108 kg to 68 kg. In the video, he says the Egyptian regime is responsible for his condition, and will be responsible if he dies. He says he has received no medical care in prison, and his requests to be seen by an independent doctor have been denied.

Yesterday, he appeared in court to appeal against his detention. Sitting in a cage, he told journalists that the prison authorities had tried to forcefeed him tuna the day before. On Monday he had been moved to solitary confinement in Cairo’s notorious al-Aqrab (‘Scorpion’) jail, part of the Tora prison complex. His appeal was denied.

‘His health situation was worrying before, but now that he’s in one of Tora’s worst prisons and on his own it’s really alarming,’ Mosaab El-Shamy, Abdullah’s brother, told me. ‘Force-feeding can be very dangerous, and it can backfire. And all the mental implications it will have on him, that’s our biggest concern.’

El-Shamy worked as a reporter for al-Jazeera’s Arabic-language news channel. He was arrested while reporting on the Rabaa massacre.

In a separate session yesterday, the trial of three al-Jazeera English journalists continued. Prosecutors have asked the defendants’ lawyers to pay more than LE1.2 million (£100,000) to watch secret video evidence they say will prove the journalists’ guilt. Ibrahim Adbel Wahhab, one of the defence team, told me the sum was unheard of. The fee for viewing evidence is usually between LE500 and LE1000 (£45 to £85). The prosecution has not formally named their price in writing. The judge asked them to do so and adjourned the trial till 22 May.

In a separate development, three of the defence lawyers quit in court after they accused the broadcaster of putting its self-promotional interests and its feud with Egypt ahead of the freedom of its employees. Al-Jazeera has lodged a $150 million claim for compensation against Egypt through an international investor arbitration tribunal to fight the crackdown against its channel and its staff. The three al-Jazeera English journalists – the Canadian-Egyptian bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy, Australian reporter Peter Greste and local producer Baher Mohamed – have been detained since December, accused of aiding terrorism, doctoring footage and conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to damage Egypt’s reputation. They describe the charges as absurd.