Egypt frees three youths held over mocking video

egypt-youthCAIRO: Egypt has released three youths arrested in May over an online video mocking the government, but a fourth member of the group is still in custody, their lawyer said Sunday.

The four young men from the group known as Street Children had posted a video on the internet poking fun at the devaluation of the Egyptian pound and the return of two islands to Saudi Arabia.

“Three of them — Mohammed Yehya, Mohammed al-Dessouki and Mohammed Gabr — have been released” over the past few days, defence lawyer Hazem Salah told AFP on Sunday.

The fourth member of the group, Mohammed Adel, is still in detention but waiting for the completion of the procedure allowing his release, he said.

Salah said Yehya, Dessouki and Gabr were freed on condition that they clock in twice a week at their local police station for the next 45 days.

He said “the case has not yet been referred to court”.

The group were arrested in May and remanded in custody, the latest case in a crackdown on voices critical of the authorities.

They were accused of “promoting ideas calling for terrorist acts by posting a video on social networks and YouTube,” a member of the defence team said after their arrest.

They are also suspected of “incitement to take part in demonstrations disturbing the public order” and “inciting mobs to commit hostile actions against state institutions”.

The case sparked public anger, and in June the New York-based Human Rights Watch group (HRW) urged Egypt to drop legal charges against the four.

“The investigation appears to be based purely on their satirical videos and violates the right to free speech,” the watchdog said.

Egypt under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is “losing its legendary sense of humour when it locks up young men for making satirical videos,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa head at HRW.

“This kind of blanket repression leaves young people with few outlets to express themselves or joke about their daily hardships.”

Rights groups accuse Sisi of running an ultra-authoritarian and repressive regime since he deposed his democratically elected Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi in 2013.