CAIRO – An American translator and an Egyptian filmmaker were arrested in Cairo and have been held for three days in an undisclosed location, their lawyer said on Saturday.
Ahmed Hassan, a lawyer with the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, told The Associated Press that U.S. citizen Jeremy Hodge, 26, and Egyptian filmmaker Hossam Eddin el-Meneai, 36, were arrested Wednesday before midnight from their apartment in Dokki district in Western Cairo. He said that officers at the local police station first acknowledged they are holding the two but later denied that they were in custody. It is not immediately clear why the two were held.
The Ministry of the Interior in Cairo declined to comment on the incident.
Hassan said he believes they are being held by the domestic spy agency, National Security. He said he has filed kidnapping reports for the two.
Hassan called the detention part of a "wave of intimidation of journalists" in Egypt. There has also been a rise of cases where citizens detain journalists and foreigners, reporting them to authorities amid a rising nationalist fervor and panic over foreign plots to destabilize the country.
An official at the American Embassy in Cairo confirmed a U.S. citizen was in detention.
"We are aware that a U.S. citizen has been detained in Egypt and are providing all appropriate consular assistance," the official said on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. He had no further comments.
Hodge is a free-lance translator who has worked in Egypt for a number of publications and with Berlin-based Transparency International. His roommate el-Meneai is a filmmaker, originally from the restive Northern Sinai province where militants have upped their attacks on security and military forces.
A press statement issued by friends of the two included text messages that Hodge sent out after they were detained.
"They're asking Hossam about Sinai and his camera," Hodge wrote. "They're asking me how I know him, and where I learned my Arabic." In another text message, he wrote: "Hossam is being investigated, I'm waiting around."
Hodge suffers from asthma, his friends said. It is not clear if he has access to his medication.
In a separate incident, Egyptian artist and filmmaker Aalam Wassef was briefly detained along with a Swiss citizen on Friday, according to lawyers, and was later released without charge. It was not immediately clear why the two were taken from Wassef's apartment that overlooks Tahrir Square, where rallies are expected on the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising Wednesday.
Wassef has made videos critical of the government and former longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. He worked under a pseudonym when Mubarak was in power and continued to put out videos under his own name since Mubarak's fall, under both military and Islamist rule.
Three journalists working for Al-Jazeera English have been held since 29 December, one of them spending long hours in solitary confinement. Authorities have initially accused them of being part of a terrorist group, in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, and spreading false news about Egypt. They are not yet formally charged.
Since July 2013, at least five journalists have been killed covering protests in Egypt, 45 journalists assaulted, and 11 news outlets raided, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The group also reported that at least 44 journalists have also been detained "without charge in pretrial procedures, which, at times, have gone on for months."