Egypt cartoonist Islam Gawish arrested ‘over website’
February 1, 2016   By:    Egyptian Detainees, Islam Gawish   Comments are off   //   926 Views

An Egyptian cartoonist known for his satirical slant on political issues has been arrested accused of “running a website without a license”.

Islam Gawish was detained during a police raid on the offices of a news website where he worked in Cairo.

Opposition parties and activists have demanded his immediate release.

The arrest comes as Egyptian officials increasingly cut down on dissent. Human rights groups say the situation in the country has never been worse.

Gawish was arrested during an operation on Sunday on the headquarters of the Egypt News Network website.

He is accused of running a website without a permit and using pirated computer software, the interior ministry said in a statement. It was not clear which website the ministry was referring to.

A popular cartoonist, Gawish has published his work on a Facebook page that has more than 1.6 million followers. He has satirised government figures, including President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, and aspects of daily life.

His lawyer, Mahmoud Othman, told the Associated Press news agency that the only charge against him so far was “publishing drawings that are offensive to the regime”.

In a statement posted on Facebook, eight political parties and around 50 political activists criticised Gawish’s arrest, accusing the government of “restricting freedom of opinion and expression”.

It said: “This approach is totally unacceptable and there has to be an end for targeting people with free opinions, who wish for nothing but living in a country that respects freedom of opinion and expression, according to the constitution.”

Human rights groups have criticised the Egyptian government for its campaign against activists and journalists. Amnesty International has warned that Egypt is now “mired in a human rights crisis of huge proportions”, as the country “reverts back to a police state”.

In January, ahead of the fifth anniversary of the uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak, several people were arrested, including two activists accused of running dozens of Facebook pages supporting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and calling for protests.

Recent raids have also targeted sites popular with activists, which have been shut down.

As former armed forces chief, Mr Sisi led the army’s overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi, an ex-Muslim Brotherhood official, in 2013 following mass protests.

Since then, more than 1,000 people have been killed and 40,000 are believed to have been jailed. Most of them have been supporters of the Brotherhood, which was banned in 2013, but secular and liberal activists have also been prosecuted for breaking a 2013 anti-protest law.

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