(Photo: still from one of earlier videos by 'Street Children' group, Feb 2016)
The international rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on Egypt's government to free four members of a satirical performance group who posted video clips on social media mocking the government
Five of the group's six members were detained in May, with one later released on bail. The sixth member is being investigated but has not been arrested.
The men are accused of using social media to “insult” state institutions, inciting demonstrations, disturbing public order, spreading false news and incitement to topple the regime.
The New York-based rights group said Egyptian authorities "should drop their investigation" into the six young men and free the four being detained, adding that the case violates the right to free speech.
"This kind of blanket repression leaves young people with few outlets to express themselves or joke about their daily hardships," Nadim Houry, HRW deputy Middle East and North Africa director, said in a statement on Thursday.
The defendants’ lawyer, Mahmoud Othman, told HRW that prosecutors also threatened to use terrorism charges against the men, which could lead to lengthy person terms if convicted.
The group posts online satirical music videos shot on the streets that lampoon Egyptian politics.
One week before their arrest, the group released a video mocking President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and calling on him to leave office.
The investigations against the Street Children group contravenes international human rights laws and conventions, to which Egypt is a signatory, that guarantee freedom of expression and opinion, the rights advocacy watchdog said in the statement
“Egypt’s youth have been a driving force for change since the 2011 uprising,” Houry said. “Upholding human rights and free speech is the best way for El-Sisi to begin to repair the government’s relationship with them.”