A letter to Egypt: Why have you jailed my friend Mahmoud Hussein?

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Has it really been 500 days of you behind bars Mahmoud Hussein, my friend? How could your jailer do that? Maybe because they don’t know you? Or maybe because they don’t care about you and the people who love you?

I am having hard time understanding why has your jailer snatched you from your family and friends without charge.

Is it possible to excuse them for they don’t know you as well as I do, your loyal friend for almost 30 years?

Let me speak to your jailers then, perhaps they can learn a little of what I know about you?

Do you remember Mahmoud the time we spent at the prestigious Cairo University in the 1980s to study in the famous Faculty of Economics and Political Science?

When some of us were reserved about mixing with people in the capital having come from the villages, and you were always bridging the gaps for us with your kind soul you brought from the countryside, and civilised manner you attained at the city. 

Until this day I am trying to understand how you became everybody’s friend so quickly. How was it that everyone admired you and wanted to become your friend in such a short time. 

Why’s Egypt continuing to hold Mahmoud Hussein without charge?

Will you answer me, Mahmoud?

Then let me take this opportunity and ask how did you manage to achieve so much with very little time?

Being an outstanding student in school, who is heavily involved in student life, organising social activities and trips, and being a stage actor and director all at the same time?

I still remember your play which entered the university theatre competition, “crazy and proud”.

I laugh every time I remember what happened on the night of the show.

You came rushing to me, during the play, asking me to put on a costume and play a character that you realised no one was there to play.

And when I was hesitating you said “no way” I’ll get out of it, since I was the only one who knew the script from accompanying you to all the rehearsals.

Loyal to the principles

What else can I tell your jailer? That you loved people around you, making time for everyone, and being available to them when they needed you?

Perhaps they will tell me that your character and personal life isn’t of interest to them.

Then let me tell them about your professionalism and work ethics, and how you mentored dozens of Egyptian journalists to get started in their careers.

How you were loyal to the principles of your profession, always pushing the boundaries of freedom to the maximum.

Let me tell your jailers this: you will be astonished if you looked through Mahmoud’s reporting history, seeing how professional he was, always siding with the people and the truth.

Perhaps you will find something in there to tells you how wrong you are about him.

Do you know that Mahmoud was never politically loyal to anyone but his country?

He was firm in his beliefs but never offending anyone, debated strongly but never lost his head, and his smile never left his face.

He has never lost anyone over views, which has become a scarce trait in Egypt these days.

I don’t know how you can sleep at night while keeping Mahmoud in jail for 500 days without releasing him or giving him a chance to defend himself in court.

And how do you enjoy sitting among your family, when you’ve left Mahmoud’s children deprived of their father for no reason?

And what about his grieving parents? 

Did you know that his father suffered a stroke a few weeks ago out of saddened his son’s condition? If you didn’t know, here I have told you.

And finally a message to the free world. Do you know that a journalist will complete 500 days behind bars on Friday without charge, not having the opportunity to appear before a court? 

If you did not know, I have told you.

Journalism is Not a Crime: The Story of Mahmoud Hussein – Al Jazeera World

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