It has come to light that British journalist Bel Trew, a correspondent for The Times, was arrested on 20th February and subsequently expelled from the country. Trew was reporting in the working-class area of Cairo, Shubra, when she was detained.
In an article published by The Times, Trew explains how she thought a recording of her interview in Shubra would see to her release – an informer, she says, at the café where she had been conducting the interview had told police that she was discussing the Egyptian state’s involvement in a migrant boat sinking off the coast of Rosetta in 2016, but she had in fact been discussing a different event and had not mentioned the government.
“The taxi had just pulled away from the café in central Cairo when a minibus of plain-clothes police officers cut us off. Five men jumped out and took me to a nearby police station,” Trew says, describing what happened after the interview she had conducted with a poor man whose nephew had probably drowned at sea en route to Italy.
“By the time word reached the interior ministry, it had included a rumour that I was investigating forced disappearances of dissidents. This has been a contentious subject in Egypt since the murder in 2016 of Giulio Regeni.”
Trew was given the choice of facing a military trial or returning to the United Kingdom – some seven years after moving to Egypt and building her life here. “I was refused access to a lawyer or my embassy. At about 6pm the police told me my embassy wanted to deport me, which made no legal sense. I was bundled into a police van without knowing if anyone knew where I was[… and] less than 24 hours after I was first detained, I was marched on to a plane with nothing but the clothes I was standing up in.”
There is a tendency in Egypt for foreign journalists to be viewed with suspicion, and many in the last few years have ended up behind bars. Three years ago, Egyptian Streets asked five foreign journalists what it was like doing their job in Egypt. All but one have since left the country.
Trew has been told that if she returns, she will be re-arrested; the reasons why remain unclear.