Egyptian cartoonist Islam Gawish (Photo: Courtesy of Islam Gawish Facebook)
Egyptian cartoonist Islam Gawish was arrested Sunday afternoon for operating a website without permission, authorities said. However, his official Facebook page and lawyer claim he was arrested for an anti-regime cartoon.
In a short statement, the Facebook page of Gawish Al-Warqa (The Paper), which posts his cartoons, said that he was arrested from his office at the Egypt News Network (ENN).
The Facebook page, which has drawn more than 1.6 million likes, also announced that it suspended its activities because of his arrest.
Islam Gawish was arrested Sunday afternoon along with an accountant working for the website.
The accountant was released, but Gawish remains in custody.
An interior ministry statement said ENN publishes news without permission.
The statement added that the popular social media cartoonist was arrested for running "his own website" without the authorisation of the Ministry of Telecommunications.
It is not clear whether the site the ministry of interior claims Gawish is illegaly administering belongs to ENN or a different entity.
Gawish was also arrested for possession of pirated copies of software, the interior ministry added.
Gawish's lawyer, Mahmoud Othman, told Ahram Online his client was detained at Nasr City 1st precinct police station, adding that officers declined to provide him with a copy of the arrest warrant for Islam Gawish or divulge the reason for his arrest.
"Unofficially and verbally, I was told that Islam Gawish was accused of using [means of communication] to spread anti-regime cartoons," Othman told Ahram Online.
"The arrest of Islam is illegal and unconstitutional as the 2014 Constitution's Article 67 clearly stipulates that the state has to protect artists and intellectuals," Othman said.
He added "There is an ongoing crackdown against cultural centres and artists like Gawish."
In early January, three independent cultural venues were stormed and closed down by local municipality officials as well as the censorship and tax authorities, for alleged illegal licensing issues.
Othman added that his client will appear before the prosecution Sunday evening in Nasr City.
Gawish gained fame on social media after starting a satirical doodle cartoon on his Facebook page The Paper dealing with social issues in Egypt.
His second comic book, Al-Waraqa Part Two, was released recently.
There are no legal restrictions in Egypt on launching and moderating a Facebook page.
Despite this, a significant number of moderators have been arrested in recent months on charges of attempting to instigate protests and violence.