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Egypt prosecutors order Jazeera reporter to stay in jail

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Cairo (AFP)

Egyptian prosecutors ordered a journalist working for Qatar's Al Jazeera to remain in detention pending further investigation, despite a court order to release him, a security source said on Wednesday.

Mahmoud Hussein, an Egyptian national, was detained in Cairo in December 2016 after returning for a family holiday. He was accused of incitement against state institutions and spreading false news.

Last week, an Egyptian court ordered his release after nearly two and a half years of detention.

"The state security prosecution ordered Mahmoud Hussein to be remanded in jail for 15 days pending investigations," said the source.

His daughter Az-Zahra Mahmoud Hussein said her father's release was initiated earlier this week but authorities launched a probe against him in another case.

Doha-based Al Jazeera deplored the Egyptian authorities' decision to investigate Hussein on "unspecified charges".

Al Jazeera has been caught up in the political rift between Cairo and Doha following the 2013 military ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who was backed by Qatar.

The network is seen by Egypt's government as a mouthpiece for Morsi's outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group. Access to its website has been blocked in Egypt since 2017.

Shortly after Morsi's ouster, authorities arrested three Al-Jazeera journalists, including an Egyptian-Canadian and an Australian, provoking international condemnation.

The three journalists, who faced accusations similar to those levelled against Hussein, were freed in 2015.

Australian journalist Peter Greste was deported and the two others were released after receiving pardons from President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

In June 2017, Egypt -- along with other Arab countries including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- severed ties with Qatar over allegations that it supports "terrorist" groups, including the Brotherhood.

Rights groups regularly accuse Sisi's regime of crushing all forms of dissent and repressing political opponents.

Under his rule, authorities have jailed thousands of Morsi's Islamist supporters as well as liberal and secular activists, including popular bloggers, actors, singers and journalists.

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