Prominent Egyptian Activist, Government Critic, Jailed For Six Months

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Egyptian publisher and activist Hisham Kassem speaks with a supporter during his trial as policemen stand guard in the Cairo Economic Court in the suburb of Maadi, Egypt, September 16, 2023. Hisham Kassem Supporters Facebook Page/Handout via Reuters

 A court in Cairo on Saturday sentenced prominent publisher and activist Hisham Kassem, who had recently stepped up his criticism of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s rule, to six months in prison, his lawyer said.

Kassem is a leader of al-Tayar al-Hurr, or Free Current, a newly formed liberal group. 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 the 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, said his lawyer, Nasser Amin. The economic court that issued the verdict also fined him 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($645).

An appeal hearing had been set for Oct. 7, Amin said.

No serious challenge is expected against Sisi, a former army chief who has continued backing from the 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, said his lawyer, Nasser Amin. The economic court that issued the verdict also fined him 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($645).

An appeal hearing had been set for Oct. 7, 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 then suspended a hunger strike while in detention.