Sudan Returns Egyptian Journalist, After Bashir-Mursi Meeting

Regulation & Policy

Sudan has returned an Egyptian journalist, Shaimaa Adel, to Cairo after she was detained on June 3 for covering the month-long protests against the regime and austerity measures to counteract Khartoum's dire economic predicament.

Adel flew back to Cairo on Monday on the official jet of Egypt's new head of state, President Mohamed Mursi, who was elected last month, following the ouster of Hosni Mubarek last year.

The Egyptian journalist told Al-Jazeera TV she travelled to Addis Ababa aboard a Sudanese private jet to Addis Ababa accompanied with two security officers who handed her to an Egyptian official in the hotel where was President Mursi.

She further said she took a breakfast with the Egyptian president before to return to Cairo. "The president asked me if I was ill-treated or tortured," she said, stressing she was questioned about her relations with the Sudanese female activists arrested with her.

The 'Arab Spring' that has so far led to changes of governments in Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia - as well as a civil war in Syria - has not resulted in mass protests in Sudan, which has twice in the past overthrown authoritarian regimes through public uprisings.

Bashir has dismissed the protestors as "bubbles", while officials have played down the prospect of a 'Sudanese Spring'. Sudan is recovering from the loss of oil revenues after South Sudan separated last year taking with it the majority of production.

The government's planned dissolution of subsidies on key goods, including petrol and gas, triggered the protests that began on 16 June at the University of Khartoum and later spread to other areas of the city and some regional towns.

Mursi is reported to have discussed Adel's case with his counterpart, Sudanese President Omer Hassan al-Bashir at the African Union summit on Sunday.

Adel, 25, was the second Egyptian journalist to be arrested by Sudanese authorities for covering the protests, which have led to over 2,000 arrests according to human rights groups.

The Sudanese government say they detained Adel on the basis that she did not have proper accreditation, accusing her of having links to activists.

Another Egyptian journalist, Bloomberg's former Sudan correspondent, Salma El Wardany, was also detained and expelled by Khartoum under similar circumstances.

An AFP journalist, Simon Martelli, was briefly held for covering the beginning of the protests.

Sudan's official news agency (SUNA) has quoted foreign minister Ali Karti as saying that Bashir had approved of Adel's release before his meeting with Mursi in Addis Abba. However, Mursi's official page on the social media website Facebook said the decision was taken after he met Bashir.

Mursi is a member of Egypt's prominent Muslim Brotherhood, the party from which Bashir's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has its roots.

Critics in Egypt have accused the President of attempting to exploit Adel's case. Mursi insisted that she flew back from Khartoum to Cairo with him in his jet, the journalist told Al Jazeera.