Skip to main content

Detained Egypt cartoonist who mocked Sisi is freed

Islam Gawish told local TV that the authorities had wrongfully detained him
Egyptian authorities have been accused of cracking down on all forms of opposition since Mohamed Morsi was ousted in 2013 (MEE)

An Egyptian cartoonist known for mocking President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has been released after he was detained for running a website without permission, his lawyer and the prosecution service said on Monday.

After his release, 26-year-old Islam Gawish told local TV by phone that authorities had wrongfully detained him. 

"I refused to sign statement saying that I'm the manager of Egypt News Network (ENN) I was not officially charged with anything," he said. 

Gawish, known on social media networks for his cartoons mocking Egyptian officials, was arrested on Sunday, in a move that raised fresh alarm over freedom of expression in Egypt.

The prosecution service confirmed that Gawish had been freed without charge, saying that they had found him to not have any terrorist links. 

Gawish was arrested at work, the office of a local information website that operates without the required legal permits, the interior ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

It said he was detained for "administering a personal site on the internet without a licence in violation of the law", and also accused him of using pirated computer software.

Gawish's cartoons are posted on a Facebook page followed by more than 1.6 million people.

A joint statement by several small opposition parties had demanded the cartoonist's "immediate release" while denouncing what they called a policy of "restricting freedom of opinion and expression adopted recently by the state apparatus".

"We warn about the consequences of a return to the police state and the repression of freedoms," said the statement signed by eight parties including the liberal al-Dostour, founded by Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei.

Since Sisi overthrew his predecessor, the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi in 2013, the authorities have been accused of cracking down on all forms of opposition.

Gawish's arrest coincided with the fifth anniversary of the 2011 popular uprising that forced strongman Hosni Mubarak to step down after three decades in power.

In the aftermath of Morsi's oust, more than 1,400 Muslim Brotherhood protesters demanding his reinstatement were killed by police and soldiers. Tens of thousands have been jailed and hundreds convicted to death in controversial mass trials. 

Initially targeting Morsi supporters, the police crackdown has been extended to include almost all opposition.