Egypt: Police arrested a journalist after a report on seized plane in Zambia

Egyptian security forces arrested journalist Karim Assaad after reporting on the identity of several officials allegedly aboard plane seized in Zambia carrying millions of dollars in cash, gold, and weapons

Egyptian security forces detained a local journalist who had covered a breaking news story allegedly involving five Egyptian officials aboard a private plane seized by Zambian authorities earlier this week.

Forces arrested Karim Assaad overnight Friday from his home in al-Shorouk, a satellite city in the eastern area of Cairo, Mada Masr news reported. 

The arrest took place after forces raided his family home, Assaad’s wife told Mada Masr. During the raid, forces assaulted Assaad and his wife and threatened the life of their son, she said. 

The forces also demanded Assaad access Matsada2sh news agency’s accounts – where his reports were published – and delete two articles related to the identity of the Egyptians on the plane seized in Zambia. 

According to the reports, the plane had been loaded with millions of dollars in cash, gold, and weapons. Details alleged that a Egyptian army major had been aboard the plane, along with several other Egyptian officials. 

During the raid, Assaad’s wife said forces told them that the news agency did not understand “the seriousness of what they published”. 

The news agency, in a statement posted to Facebook on Sunday, said that its website had also been “subjected to a coordinated attack” by Egyptian authorities. 

“Simultaneously, our team of investigative journalists is being subjected to a parallel security attack,” the agency said.

“We hold the Egyptian authorities responsible for the safety of our team”.

The names of five Egyptians aboard the chartered plane were initially revealed in a leaked letter apparently sent by their lawyers to Nason Banda, the director general of Zambia’s Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC). 

The letter states that lawyers are acting on behalf of the named individuals and that they have been held in custody since 13 August.

Released one day after arrest

Karim Asaad, a journalist working for the independent fact-checking platform Matsad2sh, was released from detention on Sunday, Journalists Syndicate head Khaled al-Balshy announced.

Asaad was arrested from his home on Saturday by security forces who assaulted and threatened him and his wife and confiscated his personal devices.

The arrest came alongside a breach of Matsada2sh’s publishing accounts which followed the platform’s publication of information on the alleged identities of five of six Egyptian nationals arrested in Zambia last week onboard a now-impounded private jet carrying cash, counterfeit gold and weapons.

In a statement on Sunday evening, Balshy said that he had communicated with the “competent authorities” who had responded to the syndicate’s request.