Egypt: Kassem, Other Political Opponents Face Intimidation

Egypt’s human rights record has come under another round of scrutiny following Monday’s detention of prominent government critic Hisham Kassem.

Development Diaries reports that the country’s public prosecution charged the publisher with insulting police, shortly after a decision to release him on bail in a defamation case.

It is understood that Kassem was initially detained on 20 August in connection with ‘libel and slander’ accusations filed against him by former Minister of Labour, Kamal Eita.

Eita, it was gathered, sued Kassem over alleged defamatory posts on Facebook.

The Middle East Eye reported that the detention also came a day after Kassem posted a tweet commenting on the arrest of a journalist in relation to the Egyptian private plane carrying millions in cash, fake gold and weapons seized in Zambia earlier this month.

Some human rights defenders, including Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and the Egyptian Human Rights Forum, have questioned the detention of the prominent secular opposition figure.

‘Hisham Kassem has become the target of a widespread defamation campaign by state-affiliated channels since his appointment as Chairman of the Free Liberal Current’, Programme Officer at Egyptian Human Rights Forum, Samar Elhussieni, said in a press release.

‘He is a vocal political dissident who speaks out against corruption, repression and failed economic policies that have led to a severe economic crisis in the country’.

As for CIHRS, the organisation called for the immediate release of Kassem and the tens of thousands of peaceful political prisoners held in Egyptian prisons.

‘The detention of Kassem is clearly motivated by his political activity and is a sign of the government’s escalation against peaceful opposition, as well as a testament that the alleged political opening announced last year is a mere ruse’, CIHRS said in a statement.

A 2022 report by Amnesty International revealed that in November of the same year, authorities released 895 prisoners held for political reasons but arrested nearly triple that number.

Data from CIHRS also shows that for every political prisoner who was freed between April 2022 and July 2023, roughly three more were put behind bars.

As Egypt prepares for presidential elections while experiencing a severe economic crisis, the authorities’ persistent targeting of peaceful dissidents clearly demonstrates their lack of intention to ease repression.

Freedom House ranked Egypt as ‘not free’ in its 2023 Freedom in the World report, with the country scoring 18 out of a possible 100.

Development Diaries calls on the Egyptian authorities to respect the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and immediately release Kassem and other peaceful political prisoners held in Egyptian prisons.

Photo source: Hisham Kassem


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