Kassem was convicted of defamation, defamation and assaulting a police officer according to the Egyptian rights group.
An Egyptian court has sentenced political activist Hisham Kassem to six months in prison on charges stemming from an online spat against a former minister and the opposition.
Saturday’s ruling is subject to appeal before a higher court. The case drew condemnation from rights groups and renewed global attention on Egypt’s poor human rights record.
Hisham Kassem, who is a leading official of Free Current, a coalition of mostly liberal parties, was convicted of defamation, defamation and assault on a police officer, according to Hossam Bahgat, head of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, who represented Kassem before the court.
Bahgat said the Cairo court also fined Kassem 20,000 Egyptian pounds (approximately $647).
Kassem, who for decades ran a series of news outlets that helped keep alive pockets of the country’s independent, free press, was arrested in August after prosecutors questioned him about the charges brought against him. Kamal Abu Eita, former labor minister.
Initially, the persecutors ordered Kassem’s release on the condition that he pay a bail of 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($161). But Kassem refused to pay and was taken to a Cairo police station, where he allegedly assaulted police officers.
Kassem and his lawyers have denied the accusations.
London-based Amnesty International on Thursday called on Egyptian authorities to “immediately release” Kassem, saying he was “arbitrarily detained”.
“The prosecution of Hisham Kassem for simply posting critical messages online is a signal that the Egyptian authorities’ relentless campaign to silence peaceful critics and punish dissent…
Egypt has launched a widespread crackdown on dissent over the past decade, imprisoning thousands of people. Most of those imprisoned are supporters of former President Mohammed Morsi. However, the crackdown also targeted prominent secular activists.
Egypt’s human rights record is under increasing international scrutiny ahead of presidential elections set for February. The government tried to whitewash its image, but the arrest of Kassem and other activists proved to be a blow to the 18-month effort.
In recent months, Egypt has allowed some criticism of its policies amid a dire economic crisis and growing calls for political reform ahead of presidential elections in 2024.
The government launched a forum for dialogue with opposition parties and rights activists to improve the human rights record and provide recommendations to the government on how to resolve its many crises.
The government has also pardoned several high-profile detainees in recent months. Chief among them are Patrick Zaki, a leading human rights defender, and Ahmed Douma, one of the Egyptian activists behind the uprising against the government in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring.
The United States has recently approved the bulk of military aid to Egypt despite continued human rights concerns, the US State Department said, stressing that Cairo has helped many hotspots.
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday said the move “ignores the ongoing repressive policies of the Egyptian government”.
“US officials are creating a false choice between national security and human rights,” said Nicole Widdersheim, HRW’s deputy Washington director.