After his release, Egyptian cartoonist Islam Gawish says he was 'wrongfully arrested'

Ahram Online , Monday 1 Feb 2016

Islam Gawish
Egyptian cartoonist Islam Gawish (Photo: Courtesy of Islam Gawish Facebook)

Cairo prosecutors ordered on Monday the release of Egyptian cartoonist Islam Gawish without filing charges against him a day after he was arrested.

Based on National Security investigations, the prosecution determined that Gawish had no ties with news website Egypt News Network (ENN), and that his relation to the company was only technical.

The investigations concluded that Gawish had no connection to any "terrorist organisations or groups."

The 26-year-old cartoonist told ONTV channel by phone that he was wrongfully arrested by security forces instead of the owner of ENN.

"I refused to sign a statement saying that I'm the manager of ENN. I was not officially charged with anything."

Gawish added that during his arrest an officer found comic drawings by Gawish, including political comics, which made the officer unofficially accuse him of insulting the regime.

After his release, Gawish headed to the Cairo International Book Fair to attend the signing of a friend's book.

'Pirated computer software' 

An interior ministry statement said on Sunday that ENN was "publishing news without a license and using pirated computer software".

The statement also said that the popular social media cartoonist was arrested for running "his own website" without authorisation from the Ministry of Telecommunications.

Gawish, the owner of a satirical caricature Facebook page Gawish Al-Warqa (The Paper), wich has over 1.6 million followers, was arrested on Sunday along with an accountant working for the website at ENN's office.

The accountant was later released.

Gawish’s arrest sparked outrage on social media following media reports on Sunday that he was arrested for his anti-regime cartoons.

"I was told unofficially that Islam Gawish was accused of using [means of communication] to spread anti-regime cartoons," Mahmoud Othman, Gawish’s lawyer, told Ahram Online on Sunday.

Several political parties, including Strong Egypt and the Constitution Party, announced their solidarity with Gawish.

Cartoonists also showed expressed solidarity by drawing and posting anti-regime caricatures on their pages.

The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights condemned the arrest, describing it as a "flagrant violation of freedom of artistic activity."

Gawish gained fame on social media for posting satirical cartoons on his Facebook page dealing with social issues in Egypt.

According to Article 67 of Egypt’s 2014 constitution, "no freedom restricting sanction may be inflicted for crimes committed because of the publicity of artistic, literary or intellectual product."

In early January, three independent cultural venues were raided and closed down by local municipality officials as well as the censorship and tax authorities for alleged illegal licensing issues.

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