American, two others accused of inciting protests released in Egypt

Story highlights

  • American, Australian and their Egyptian translator are released
  • The three still face charges, a prosecutor's spokesman says
  • An Egyptian activist says witnesses were bribed to speak out against the three
Egyptian authorities have freed an American student and an Australian freelance journalist arrested Saturday along with their Egyptian translator but charges are still pending against them, an official said.
"The three of them are not allowed to travel, and they are charged with inciting people to destabilize the security of the country. We are waiting for the final report from the investigators," said Adel Saeed, spokesman for Egypt's general prosecutor.
American student Derek Ludovici, Australian Austin Mackell and their Egyptian translator, Aliya Alwi, were arrested Saturday on accusations that they were trying to bribe people to join a general strike in Mahalla, an industrial city about 70 miles (108 kilometers) north of Cairo.
The official Middle East News Agency said the three were accused of "inciting protest and vandalism" via Facebook and that Ludovici also was illegally working as a journalist even though he had entered the country using a tourist visa.
Mackell and Alwi had traveled to Mahalla to interview a labor rights activist and to cover a general strike scheduled for February 11, according to Mackell and Egyptian activist Shahira Abu el Leil, a founding member of the No To Military Tribunals of Civilians group. Ludovici, Mackell's friend and a student at American University in Cairo, joined them on the trip because it related to the thesis he is preparing as part of his studies, she said.
Witnesses who accused the trio of bribing people to join the strike were themselves bribed, she alleged.
"The witnesses who testified against them were paid, and I got a confirmation from a young boy who was paid 200 pounds to confirm they were inciting and bribing people," she said.
It was unclear Tuesday when the investigation against the three would be completed.