Belgium calls for release of journalist held in Egypt

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Belgium called Wednesday for the release of a Belgian journalist detained by Egyptian security forces after he was beaten while covering a protest.

Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere called for Serge Dumont's "immediate release."

"He was arrested by Egyptian security forces after being attacked while covering protests in his journalistic capacity," Vanackere said in a statement.

In a brief phone conversation from Cairo with his newspaper Le Soir, Dumont said he was accused by unidentified civilians of supporting Egyptian dissident Mohamed ElBaradei before being dragged to a barracks.

"It was aggressive, violent. I received several blows to the face. They claimed I was pro-ElBaradei. They took me to the military in one of the barracks at the outskirts of town," Dumont said.

"There they gave me a glass of water, from the Nile, they said, to give me diarrhoea. I'm being held by two soldiers with Kalashnikovs. They say they're going to take me to the secret service. They say I'm a spy."

The Belgian embassy in Cairo was able to speak to Dumont by telephone and is asking authorities to do their utmost to find the reporter, the foreign ministry statement said.

Dumont, whose real name is Maurice Sarfatti, also covers the Middle East from Israel for Swiss paper Le Temps and French regional paper La Voix du Nord.

He was covering a demonstration by supporters of embattled President Hosni Mubarak in the suburb of Choubra in central Cairo, Le Soir said.

The three papers have each contacted officials in their own countries to ask the Egyptian authorities to intervene, as well as rights groups Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch.

The United States said it was "deeply concerned" about attacks on the media and peaceful demonstrators.

© 2011 AFP

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