All staff from Anadolu Agency's Cairo offices who were detained earlier this week have been freed as Egyptian authorities released the remaining three personnel, the agency's director Şenol Kazancı said Sunday. Kazancı said the three remaining staff members were released on a bail of 10,500 Egyptian pounds ($660) each, although the agency's Cairo office remains in police hands. Egyptian forces stormed AA's Cairo office on Tuesday and detained the journalists in a move that drew widespread condemnation from around the world. The detained staff members included Hilmi Balcı, in charge of the office's finance and administrative affairs, as well as Egyptian citizens Hussein al-Qabbani, Hussein al-Abbas and Abdelselam Muhammad. The remaining three AA personnel were initially set to be released on Friday, but authorities later said their release on bail would be delayed. The Egyptian staff's release came three days after the agency's Turkish employee, Balcı, was freed on Thursday and came back to Turkey the next day. Recounting the events to the members of the press gathered at the airport, Balcı said Egyptian security forces had raided AA's Cairo offices and took them to an undisclosed location after detaining them. According to Balcı, they were given no explanation as to why they were detained and were told that they would have to leave the country after the proceedings were concluded.
In an attempt to justify the controversial move, Egyptian media described the AA office as a "terror cell house" in its headlines. Similarly, the Egyptian Interior Ministry shared photos of seized cameras and other materials used to conduct journalism on its Facebook page claiming that these were "items seized in the cell house," ignoring the fact that the agency was operating legally in the country. Turkish authorities unequivocally condemned the detentions as a violation of freedom of the press. The European Union, United Nations and U.S. State Department also released statements saying that they were "monitoring the developments" and urged Egypt to release all those detained. Egypt, under the regime of Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who seized power by ousting President Morsi in 2014, has seen deteriorating press freedoms. In November 2019, Egyptian security forces carried out a similar raid targeting the office of independent news website Mada Masr and briefly detained three of the website's staff. Earlier, the United Nations' human rights office urged Egypt to free a blogger and journalist who were among several thousand people detained following protests against the el-Sissi regime in September. Daily Sabah was also targetted in the Egyptian regime's crackdown on the press when its website was blocked in 2017. The newspaper thus joined several news outlets critical of the regime that eventually faced a media blackout with a ban on access
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