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Egypt prosecutor orders website editor detained for 15 days - sources

By Mahmoud Mourad

CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian prosecutor ordered on Thursday that a news website's editor-in-chief be detained for 15 days pending investigations, judicial sources and one of his lawyers said.

Adel Sabry, editor-in-chief of Masr al-Arabia, was arrested on Tuesday after its office was raided by police who told its lawyers the website did not have a permit to operate. The office of the website was shut down on the same day.

Based on police investigations since Tuesday, a prosecutor in Cairo's Dokki district accused Sabry of belonging to a terrorist group, publishing false news, using text and visuals that contradict the constitution, and inciting demonstrations, said Eman Hamed, the defendant's lawyer.

Police and prosecutors could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sabry denied the accusations, Hamed told Reuters. Hamed said the defence team had presented to the prosecution documents that proved the website has the necessary permits to operate.

The editor-in-chief's arrest came two days after the Supreme Council for Media Regulation, an official oversight body, told the Masr al-Arabia website to pay about $2,800 as a fine for republishing a New York Times article on alleged irregularities during last week's presidential election.

The New York Times defended its reporting. "We stand by the accuracy of our reporting and strongly condemn any arrests meant to intimidate journalists and stifle freedom of the press," Danielle Rhoades Ha, a spokeswoman for the New York Times Co, said on Tuesday.

Masr al-Arabia is one of about 500 websites that in recent months have been blocked in Egypt, although some are still accessible through virtual networks. Rights groups say the closures amount to a crackdown on freedom of expression.

Authorities say curbing fictitious news is necessary for national security.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi won a second term with 97 percent of the votes on a turnout of 41 percent, official results showed on Monday.

(This story corrects lawyer's last name to "Hamed" throughout.)

(Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad; Writing by Arwa Gaballa; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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