Egypt: Prominent anti-government activist sentenced to six months in prison
A court in Cairo has sentenced prominent publisher and anti-government activist Hisham Kassem, 64, to six months in prison, his lawyer said on Saturday.
The movement has appealed for political change to address an economic crisis and said it could field a candidate in presidential elections, due to be held by early 2024.
No serious challenge is expected against Sisi, a former army chief who has continued backing from security forces.
Kassem was convicted of libel and slander against a former cabinet minister and verbally assaulting officers at a police station after he was detained, his lawyer Nasser Amin said. The economic court that issued the verdict also fined him 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($650).
An appeal hearing has been set for 7 October, Amin said.
Kassem's detention last month came after he had strongly criticised Sisi, and the way he has led Egypt since 2014, in social media posts. Kassem, a former publisher of Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, had started a hunger strike while in detention, which he then suspended.
Sisi has presided over a far-reaching crackdown on political dissent that has swept up critics from across the political spectrum.
Authorities have taken several steps since late 2021 that they say are aimed at addressing rights, including launching a human rights strategy and ending a state of emergency, but critics have dismissed the measures as largely cosmetic.
Some high-profile detainees have been pardoned or freed, but activists say new detentions have outnumbered releases. Thousands of political prisoners remain in jail, with restrictions on free speech as tight as ever.
This week, the United States allowed much of its annual foreign military aid to Egypt to go ahead, saying it was vital for US national security interests.
London-based Amnesty International on Thursday called on Egypt's authorities to "immediately release" Kassem, saying he had been "arbitrarily detained".
"The prosecution of Hisham Kassem for simply posting critical messages online is a signal that the Egyptian authorities' relentless campaign to silence peaceful critics and punish dissent... is continuing in full force," Philip Luther, Amnesty's research and advocacy director in the region, said.