egypt amnesty international calls for immediate release of hisham kassem
Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Philip Luther, has called for the immediate and unconditional release of Hisham Kassem, detained since August 20 solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.
Ahead of the verdict expected on September 16 for the prominent opposition politician and publisher from Egypt, Luther said: “Criminal defamation and other politically motivated charges against him [must be] dropped,” adding criticizing the government is a human right.
The prosecution of Kassem for simply posting critical messages online indicates Egypt’s relentless campaign to silence peaceful critics is continuing in full force, Luther added. He called on the international community to demand justice for those “who dare to speak up“.
Although hundreds of prisoners held for political reasons have been released since the reactivation of the Presidential Pardons Committee in May last year, arbitrary detentions continue at an alarming rate, including of Egypt-based relatives of dissidents living abroad.
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Egypt’s high profile political activist Hisham Kassem is facing criminal charges of “insulting” and “disturbing” public officials as well as of defamation for his online criticism of a former government minister’s alleged corruption. If convicted, he could be jailed for up to three years.
According to Amnesty International, authorities have violated Kassem’s rights to adequate defense and a public hearing, among other fair trial rights. His lawyers weren’t allowed to access his casefile before the trial, while diplomats and media couldn’t attend trial hearings.
Kassem has lately been actively criticizing Egyptian authorities’ handling of the economic crisis and the military’s role. In June 2023, he played a significant role in founding a coalition of liberal opposition parties and politicians.
In protest at his unjust imprisonment, the 64-year-old was on a hunger strike from August 23 to September 12. His trial has come against a backdrop of Egypt potentially considering holding presidential elections before the end of 2023 an earlier than expected date.