Egyptian authorities have released Al Jazeera journalist, Mahmoud Hussein, after more than four years in detention without formal charges or trial.
Hussein, an Egyptian national, was held under preventive detention since December 2016.
In a statement after the journalist’s release on Saturday, acting director general of Al Jazeera, Mostefa Souag, said the release of Hussein was “a moment of truth and an inspiring milestone towards press freedom”.
“Al Jazeera Media Network welcomes the news of Mahmoud’s freedom and believes that no journalist should ever be subjected to what Mahmoud has suffered for the past four years for merely carrying out his profession,” he said.
“Today, we are pleased he is finally reunited with his family, after being robbed four years from his life and deprived of his fundamental rights. We wish Mahmoud a speedy recovery and hope he will be able to overcome this past ordeal and start a new chapter in his distinguished career.”
“While he was incarcerated, Mahmoud had become a symbol of press freedom across the globe,” Souag further stated.
“On the day of his release, Al Jazeera calls for the freedom for all journalists who are unjustly imprisoned all around the world.
“We commend all international human rights organisations, media institutions, journalists for their continuous support and condemnation against the arbitrary detention of Mahmoud Hussein.
“On this day, Al Jazeera Media Network extends its gratitude towards those organisations, and all the voices of truth that have called for Mahmoud’s freedom and for the freedom of the press.”
He added that “journalism is not a crime.”
A father of nine, Hussein was arrested in Cairo, Egypt’s capital, on December 23, 2016, while visiting his family for a holiday.
The 54-year-old was interrogated for more than 15 hours without a lawyer present, before being released and then arrested again days later, according to Al Jazeera.
Egypt’s Ministry of Interior accused him of “disseminating false news and receiving monetary funds from foreign authorities in order to defame the state’s reputation”, but no charges were ever formally brought against him. Hussein and Al Jazeera consistently denied the allegations.
During his time in jail, Hussein was said to have suffered physically and psychologically. He was held for long periods in solitary confinement and denied proper medical treatment when he broke his arm in 2017.
There was no official comment by the Egyptian authorities on Hussein’s release on Saturday.