Egyptian activists demand release of satirists

Activists demanding the release of members of comedy group Awlad el-Shawarea who were arrested and charged with mocking the president

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Egyptian satirist and columnist Bassem Youssef, often known as ‘Egypt’s Jon Stewart,’ joined hundreds of activists who took to social media calling for the release of five detained members of a popular street performance group.

The group known as Awlad el-Shawarea - Arabic for ‘street kids’ - were arrested earlier this week after they posted a video clip online that mocked President Abdelfattah al-Sisi. In the video they criticised the crackdown on anti-Sisi demonstrations and journalists.

Yousef questioned the arrests in a short clip, asking Sisi: “If you truly are not scared of anyone, let them go free?”

In comments also aimed at the president, human rights activist Sherif Mansour wrote on Twitter that “if you are still scared stop making a fool of yourself and people would stop making fun of you.”

Several others also took to social media in supprot of the group, demanding their release by tweeting the hashtag “freedom‬ for street kids.”

The five, whose ages ranged between 19 and 25, are being held at a Cairo police station and face several charges, including inciting terror attacks and street protests, attempting to overthrow the government and insulting state institutions, according to their lawyer Mahmoud Othman.

The sixth member of the group, Mohammed Zein, has not been detained.

Awlad el-Shawarea is part of a street-based art, music and graffiti movement born out of Egypt’s 2011 uprising and fueled by liberal youths opposed to both the rule of Islamists and the military.

Yet authorities in recent months have sought to clamp down on the movement, closing a popular arts center in downtown Cairo and cancelling some street art festivals.

(With AP)