Alwi and Mackell speak to The Independent regarding their arrests.


Alwi, Lodovick, and Mackell during arrest in Mahalla

Derek Lodovici, an anthropology MA student at the American University in Cairo (AUC) was arrested in Mahalla on Saturday Feb. 11 along with Austin Mackell, a freelance journalist and Aliya Alwi, their translator. All three were freed from Egyptian authorities on Feb. 13.

Mackell, an Australian journalist with a focus on the Middle East spoke to The Independent about his reasons for going to Mahalla.

“I went to Mahalla with the aim of undertaking a follow-up interview with Kamal El- Fayoumi, a prominent activist known for his effective role in the 2008 protests.” Mackell noted that he had interviewed Al-Fayoumi in March 2011 and that it was essential to find out Al-Fayoumi’s view of the current situation after a year had passed since the Jan. 25 revolution.

Mackell described the situation in detail, noting that “throughout the 36 hours of our detention, we were subjected to continuous questioning about our role in the general strike and the civil disobedience movement.”

He added that “two young men and a boy who claimed to have seen us encouraging people to take part in the strike in addition to distributing money stir[red] up aggression against the local authorities [who then] confronted us.”

Aliya Alwi, an MIU graduate, professional translator, interpreter, as well as a news producer explained to The Independent that she, along with Lodovici and Mackell, was attacked by a mob prior to their arrest. “Our car got rocked and beaten against the glass, and we got called all sorts of things.”

She explained that the police then escorted them to the station claiming that it was for their “own protection.” Alwi added: “it turn[ed] out that they were lying, which we realized when were placed into custody and were deprived of food and water.”

“The authorities lied repeatedly about the reason why we were arrested in the first place and they also kept us in the dark regarding [our] destination when we were moved from Mahalla to Tanta and finally arrived in Cairo” she said.

Alwi and Mackell both claim that the charges pressed against them were untrue and that they are hopeful that the evident duality of the witnesses’ stories can prove them unreliable.

John Schaefer, anthropology professor and the faculty advisor in the department of Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology and Egyptology (SAPE) at AUC commented on the situation to The Independent.

“I was stunned to find that the charges are as serious as incitement and vandalism,” he said.

Schaefer explained that the SAPE department has had a long history of arrest incidences that goes as far back as the year 2000 when Sociology Professor Saad Eddin Ibrahim, former AUC sociology professor and human rights and democracy activist was arrested and imprisoned for defaming Egypt.

“Professors and students of anthropology and sociology are bound to clash with the authorities as a result of their political commitment,” he added.

The current status of the case remains unclear, as the case has been referred to the general prosecutor for investigation, according to Mackell. Mackell expressed his concern about this, saying “ soon it will be decided whether our case will go to court or not which means that the possibility of imprisonment or deportation remains on the table.”