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Egypt releases Australian journalist, US student and translator

Freelance reporter Austin Mackell, American student Derek Ludovici, and translator Aliya Alwi have been freed by Egyptian authorities who alleged they were paying locals to participate in anti-government rallies

Egypt mahalla release 2012 02 14Enlarge
Freelance Australian reporter Austin Mackell, American student Derek Ludovici and translator Aliya Alwi are seen in this picture taken on Feb. 11, 2012, after being detained in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla on suspicion of paying Egyptians to stage protests against the authorities. (-/AFP/Getty Images)

Egyptian authorities have freed an Australian journalist, his translator and an American student who were arrested on Saturday on suspicion of paying Egyptians to stage anti-government protests.

Freelance reporter Austin Mackell, American student Derek Ludovici, and translator Aliya Alwi were detained in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla, AFP reports.

The news agency quotes an official as saying that the veteran Egyptian labour activist, Kamal al-Fayyumi, and a driver who was with them were also released.

Activists had called for a nationwide strike on Saturday to mark the anniversary of former president Hosni Mubarak being removed from power.

The officials says that people in Mahalla, which was the site of major strikes in 2006 and 2008,  had complained to police that Mackell, Ludovici and Alwi were paying people to participate in the rally.

Alwi live-tweeted their interogation, during which she said they were being charged with inciting protests and vandalism.

More from GlobalPost:  Egypt: Arrest of foreign journalist highlights rise of xenophobia

Reuters says that Ludovici and Mackell have only been released pending further investigation.  

It says that Egyptian authorities are currently prosecuting 43 foreign and Egyptian activists for inciting unrest.  Among those are about 20 Americans who worked for pro-democracy groups including U.S.-based organisations.

The charges against them, Reuters reports, include working for organisations not properly registered in Egypt and illegally receiving foreign funds.

Shortly before the group were released on Monday, the Committee to Protect Journalists had issued a statement condemning the Egyptian authorities actions, Associated Press reported.

In it CPJ deputy director, Robert Mahoney, described the arrests as "part of a disturbing pattern of attacks and harassment of media" in Egypt. He called on authorities "to stop trying to prevent news coverage by rounding up reporters on patently trumped up charges", AP quotes from the release.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/egypt/120213/egypt-releases-australian-journalist-us-student-and-t