Egyptian authorities have dropped charges against Australian journalist Austin Mackell, who has been barred from leaving Egypt since February, Australia’s foreign minister announced Tuesday.
In a statement published on the ministry’s website, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said the decision to drop the matter followed his meeting last week with Egyptian Ambassador to Australia Omar Metwally, as well as extensive consular efforts by Australian Embassy staff in Cairo and Canberra.
"This is great news for Austin and his family in Australia," said Carr, adding, “Our embassy has been advised that the matter has been dropped and Austin's passport and personal equipment will be returned.”
Freelance reporter Mackell was arrested on 11 February and accused of paying workers in Mahalla to stage protests against the authorities. He was released from detention a day after but barred from leaving the country.
The same day, Mackell told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that he was moved several times during his detention and could hear people being tortured in the cells surrounding his, with a police officer at one point showing him mobile phone footage of the Army torturing somebody.
"Nothing was off limits to them," he said. "From the way I was treated as opposed to the people I could hear being tortured in the room next to me, one thing was clear: that as a foreigner my rights and the safety of my person is still more valued by the authorities than that of an Egyptian citizen."