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Al Jazeera demands Egypt release 4 journalists

By Ralph Ellis and Josh Levs, CNN
updated 1:07 PM EST, Mon December 30, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Four Al Jazeera journalists were arrested, the network said
  • NEW: Al Jazeera calls the arrests "arbitrary," slams "harassment" of network
  • The Egyptian government says at least one journalist met with Muslim Brotherhood members
  • The government recently declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization

(CNN) -- Egyptian security forces have arrested four Al Jazeera journalists, with the government saying at least one of them met with members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Correspondent Peter Greste, Bureau Chief Mohamed Fahmy, producer Baher Mohamed and cameraman Mohamed Fawzy were taken into custody Sunday evening in Cairo, the network said.

The Egyptian Interior Ministry said on its Facebook page that security forces arrested a Muslim Brotherhood member and an Australian journalist at a Cairo hotel. Greste, an Australian, previously worked for CNN, Reuters and the BBC.

The ministry said the Muslim Brotherhood member used the hotel to meet with other members and as a media center to broadcast damaging news about the government for Al Jazeera.

The network demanded the journalists be released.

Calling the arrests arbitrary, Al Jazeera said the network "has been subject to harassment by Egyptian security forces," including having its equipment confiscated and offices raided, despite the network not being banned from working in Egypt.

The arrests occurred the day before the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a report saying Egypt, Syria and Iraq have become the deadliest countries for journalists. Seventy journalists were killed in 2013, with six of those deaths in Egypt, the CPJ said.

Egypt's current round of political turmoil began when former President Mohamed Morsy was removed from office in a July 3 coup.

Last week, the military-backed government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. Police and members of the Muslim Brotherhood have clashed in the streets since then.

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