CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s top prosecutor on Tuesday ordered five people — including four journalists working for satellite news broadcaster Al-Jazeera English — to be held for 15 days on suspicion of joining a terrorist organization and spreading false news harmful to the state security.
Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat accused the five of belonging to a “terrorist” group, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which ousted President Mohammed Morsi hails.
The order had a list of accusations against the five, including alleging they set up a media network with the aim of “tarnishing Egypt’s image abroad and harming its political position.” It said that they were arrested on Sunday in a five-star hotel in Cairo and that authorities confiscated a number of cameras, microphones, computers, gas masks, cash and statements including calls for student protests.
Those in detention are Australian award-winning correspondent Peter Greste, Al-Jazeera English Bureau Chief Mohammed Fahmy and producer Baher Mohamed.
A spokesman for Qatar-based Al-Jazeera said that the fourth, cameraman Mohamed Fawzy, was released early Tuesday morning. Fawzy is now with his family and is in good health, the spokesman said. He said he had no knowledge of the fifth detainee.
The spokesman said the channel continues to work toward getting the three journalists still held released. The spokesman spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t authorized by his superiors to discuss the case.
In an earlier statement, Al-Jazeera said that the reporters were operating within the country legally and had been covering a number of other topics besides protests supporting the Brotherhood, including traffic congestion and soccer games.
“The allegations that are being made are totally false and unfounded,” said Al Anstey, managing director of Al-Jazeera English.
Egypt has accused Al-Jazeera of favoring the Brotherhood in its coverage since the July 3 coup.
Al-Jazeera’s offices have been stormed several times. Journalists and cameramen have been detained and a court order has barred its local affiliate from broadcasting in Egypt since September, accusing it of endangering national security. The affiliate, Al-Jazeera Mubasher Egypt, has continued to broadcast using its studios in Doha, Qatar, collaborating with freelancers and using amateur videos.
The Al-Jazeera English team kept an office in the hotel for months. The channel’s offices were raided this summer and equipment confiscated in late summer as part of a broad state crackdown.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press