Egypt arrests British teenager over aircraft photo

A 19-year-old British man has been arrested in Egypt on suspicion of spying, reportedly for taking a picture of a military helicopter from a plane window.

Muhammad Abul-Kasem was detained in the northern port city of Alexandria on his arrival from Libya on November 21, his family told the BBC.

The British Foreign Office said it was “seeking more information from the Egyptian authorities following the arrest of a British person in Alexandria, as well as permission for consular access”.

The statement made no reference to the spying allegations.

Abul-Kasem’s family said he was detained after the authorities found a photograph of a military aircraft on his mobile phone.

The family explained that Abul-Kasem took the picture from his plane’s window as it came in to land in Alexandria.

The family are now appealing for Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt to step in, the Manchester Evening Newsreported.

“My baby Muhammed would not even hurt a fly, he is a big soft teddy,” Abul-Kasem’s mum, Imaan Rafiq, said.

“He is a soft and compassionate person. We just want to stop this before a kid’s life is ruined.”

Rights groups have repeatedly accused Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of repressive policies that stifle dissent in the media and politics, as well as the use of torture by security forces.

Egyptian authorities have arrested or charged at least 60,000 people, forcibly disappeared hundreds for months at a time, handed down preliminary death sentences to hundreds more, and sent more than 15,000 civilians to military courts.

Egypt this week created a new high-powered human rights watchdog agency, but activists say its aim doesn’t appear to be in protecting Egyptians from government violations.

Instead, the body’s primary mission appears to be in protecting the government from allegations of rights abuses and defending it on the international stage.

Abul-Kasem’s arrest comes on the heels of a row between Britain and the United Arab Emirates over the life sentence the Gulf state handed British academic Matthew Hedges last week. He was convicted of “spying for a foreign country”.

Hedges was pardoned and allowed to return to his family on Tuesday following strong diplomatic pressure from London.

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