Egyptian cartoonist who was critical of the government arrested

January 31, 2016  

An Egyptian cartoonist whose work is occasionally critical of government figures was arrested in Cairo on Sunday, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

The man, Islam Gaweesh, will be charged with running a webpage without a license, the country’s Interior Ministry said.

In custody, Gaweesh was told that the only charge actually against him so far was “publishing drawings that are offensive to the regime,” his lawyer Mahmoud Othman told AP.

While most of Gaweesh’s work dealt with the mundanities of life in Egypt, noted AP, he did draw a cartoon depitcting a foul-mouthed pro-government lawyer and lawmaker Mortada Mansour, who often threatens to beat his political opponents with his shoes.

Earlier this month, Mansour was selected to head the parliament’s human rights committee.

In Gaweesh’s caricature, Mansour is shown standing next to a torturer and his victim saying: “Lash the lights out of him, but gently”, according to AP.

Since the military overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, the government has launched a crackdown on dissent, killing hundreds of protesters and throwing thousands of Islamists in prison, noted AP.

The statement from the Interior Ministry, which runs the police force in Egypt, said Gaweesh was arrested at the headquarters of the news website, Egypt News Network, which they raided on Sunday after official investigations revealed that it was publishing news without a license.

The statement added that Gaweesh was arrested for running “his own website” without the authorization of the Ministry of Telecommunications, reported Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper.

Gawish was also arrested for possession of pirated copies of software, the interior ministry added.

Al-Ahram noted that Gawish earned fame on social media after starting a doodle cartoon Facebook page called “Al-Warqa” (The Paper), where he posted cartoons mostly about social issues in Egypt.

The newspaper also said there are no legal restrictions in Egypt on launching and moderating a Facebook page. However, a significant number of moderators have been arrested in recent months on various charges, mostly for attempting to instigate protests and violence.

Egyptian courts have sentenced hundreds of alleged Brotherhood supporters to death during the crackdown on dissent, many in mass trials condemned by foreign governments and rights groups as violating international law.

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