Three al-Jazeera journalists deported from Egypt

Channel carried appeals from leaders of Muslim Brotherhood to stage protests against the army-backed government

Egyptian authorities deported three al-Jazeera journalists on Sunday, days after the Qatari-owned channel carried appeals from leaders of ousted-president Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood to stage protests against the army-backed government.

The Gulf emirate was a strong financial backer of Brotherhood rule and vehemently opposes the army’s overthrow of Morsi and the ensuing bloody crackdown on his movement.

Al-Jazeera’s offices in Cairo have been closed since 3 July, when they were raided by security forces hours after Morsi was toppled, although the channel, broadcast from Qatar, can still be seen in Egypt. Security officials at Cairo airport said Wayne Hay, Adil Bradlow and Russ Finn were put on an Egyptian plane bound for London, after being forced to leave their equipment behind.

The men had been held since Tuesday. An al-Jazeera spokesman said they had been released and left Egypt without being given a reason for their detention.

The station also said Shihab Elddin Shaarawi, an executive on al-Jazeera’s Egyptian channel, had been arrested on Friday but released.

The channel’s cameraman Mohamed Badr was detained a month ago and al-Jazeera Arabic correspondent Abdullah al-Shami was arrested on 14 August.

Both are still in detention, but producer Mohammed Baher was freed on Sunday after being held for five days.

Last week, al-Jazeera aired statements from two Brotherhood leaders who had eluded a wave of arrests, Mohamed el-Beltagi and Essam el-Erian, that included a call to join protests against Egypt’s military-backed interim government. Beltagi has since been caught.

Al-Jazeera’s English service said on its website that there has been a campaign against al-Jazeera, because their offices were raided last month and security forces seized equipmentthat has yet to be returned.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said Egypt’s government was widening a “censorship campaign”, adding that its research showed that four other journalists were in custody.

“Egyptian security forces continue to detain and harass journalists working for news outlets critical of the military-led government, particularly al-Jazeera and its affiliates,” it said last week.

On Thursday, the government said that al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr, the broadcaster’s Egyptian channel, was operating without a licence and that unspecified legal measures would follow, “given the threat it poses to national security”.

Ayman Gaballah, the head of the channel, said the accusations were fabricated.

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