Lawyer: Egyptian performer who mocked island handover arrested

Egyptian authorities have arrested a member of a performance group which mocked the government's decision to hand two strategic Red Sea islands over to Saudi Arabia, his lawyer said Sunday.

The Atfal Shawari [Street Children] group wrote on their Facebook page that Izz al-Din Khaled was arrested at home at dawn on Saturday.

Khaled's lawyer, Mahmoud Othman, confirmed the arrest and told dpa that prosecutors had accused his client of inciting demonstrations and publishing videos insulting the state, and that he had been detained for four days pending further investigations.

Authorities have arrested hundreds of people since mid-April, according to rights lawyers, in an attempt to keep opposition to the handover of the islands off the streets.

Atfal Shawari has won a wide audience for its short internet videos, filmed on the streets of Cairo, several of which have satirized the handover of the islands and mocked President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi's justifications for the decision.

One recent clip, which rephrased a patriotic song as "my beloved Egypt, except for the two islands," received more than 2 million views on Facebook.

Egypt was roiled by protests on April 15 against the handover, which was quietly announced during a visit to Cairo by Saudi King Salman.

Outspoken rights lawyer Malek Adly and Amr Badr, the editor of an opposition news site, have been among those arrested in a security crackdown since then.

Adly, a lawyer with the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), was reportedly one of a number of lawyers to file a court case against the handover.

ECESR on Sunday published a formal complaint from Adly's lawyer over his client's treatment after his arrest, alleging that he had been blindfolded, beaten and insulted.

The arrest of Badr and a colleague in a raid on their union headquarters on Sunday has led to a stand-off between the government and the journalists union, which has called for the sacking of the interior minister.

Rights lawyers reported that more than 700 people were detained on April 25 when activists attempted to repeat the protests.

The demonstrations over the handover of the islands were the first major non-Islamist street protests against President al-Sissi in two years.

Egyptian authorities have clamped down on dissent since al-Sissi, then head of the armed forces, ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

Last update: Sun, 08/05/2016 - 20:32

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