Egypt released an Al Jazeera Arabic journalist on Tuesday after he had spent nearly 150 days on hunger strike in protest of his 10 months of incarceration without charge.
Abdullah Elshamy's detention began in August last year when he was arrested while covering the police crackdown on a protest held by supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt declared a terrorist organization.
The country's prosecutor general issued a statement Monday that the 26-year-old would be freed on "health grounds." Twelve other detainees were also ordered to be released.
"This is a relief rather than a cause for celebration," Al Jazeera said in a statement. "Abdullah has been through a terrible ordeal for over ten months. He’ll want to spend time with his family and recuperate. When he’s ready, we look forward to seeing him back in action, doing the vital job of journalism that he so clearly loves."
Upon his release, Elshamy declared:
I have won, and everybody who is a freedom fighter, either a journalist or anyone doing his work credibly and with honesty, has won, because this isn’t — I mean, this experience has changed my life. I am not the person who I had been anymore. I am now more determined than before to carry on with this struggle, not just because of me, because for everyone to be able to do their job freely. A hundred and forty-nine days of hunger strike is an experience, of course, I will never forget in my life. Everyone who has been into this battle, the battle of hunger strike, has always won; there have never been any losers.
Three Al Jazeera English journalists—Peter Greste, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy—remain imprisoned in Egypt. A verdict in their case is expected June 23. The news network continues to call for their release, and their defense lawyer declared that their "trial is not a trial for these defendants alone – but a trial of all journalists."
In a statement released Wednesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists applauded Elshamy's release and also called for the freeing of "at least 14 journalists still behind bars," including the remaining Al Jazeera English journalists.
"Releasing all imprisoned journalists and allowing them to report freely and safely would be a resounding signal that Egypt is changing course," said Sherif Mansour, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator.
Independent journalist Sharif Abdel Kouddous wrote earlier this year that "Egypt has become one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a journalist."