• Urgent Action


September 29, 2023

Hisham Kassem, a prominent Egyptian opposition politician and publisher, is facing a sentence of up to three years in prison on defamation and other politically-motivated charges brought against him solely for the exercise of his right to freedom of expression, including for publicly criticising a former government minister. His trial has been marred by breaches of his right to adequate defence and other fair trial safeguards. A verdict is expected on 16 September. He must be immediately and unconditionally released.


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    Public Prosecutor Hamada al-Sawi
    Office of the Public Prosecutor
    Madinat al-Rehab Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt Fax: +202 2577 4716
    Twitter: @EgyptianPPO

    Ambassador Motaz Zahran
    Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
    3521 International Ct NW, Washington DC 20008
    Phone: 202 895 5400 I Fax: 202 244 5131
    Email: [email protected] , [email protected]
    Twitter: @EgyptEmbassyUSA , @MotazZahran
    Facebook: @EgyptEmbassyUSA
    Salutation: Dear Ambassador


    Dear Counsellor,

    I am writing to express my deep concern over the arbitrary detention on politically-motivated charges brought against Egyptian publisher, writer and opposition politician Hisham Kassem who in recent months has been vocal in his criticism of the authorities’ mishandling of the economic crisis and the role of the military. Hisham Kassem, aged 64, was detained on 20 August after being summoned to the South Cairo Prosecution office for interrogations in case no. 5007 of 2023 following a complaint of defamation lodged by former labour minister Kamal Abu Eita, whom Hisham Kassem criticized online and accused of corruption. Prosecutors ordered his release on bail of 5,000 Egyptian pounds (approximately 165 USD), but he refused to post the bail, maintaining that his detention was arbitrary and that he did not commit any acts that merited imprisonment. On 21 August, Hisham Kassem was once again questioned by prosecutors in another case no. 5284 of 2023 in relation to complaints by three policemen at al-Sayeda Zeinab police station, where he was detained on 20 August. According to his lawyers, these complaints are linked to his online post on 21 August explaining his decision not to post bail, noting that he was “more honourable that Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and all his men”.

    On 22 August, Hisham Kassem’s lawyers learned that he was referred to trial by the Cairo Economic Misdemeanours Court on charges of slander, libel, insulting a public official and intentionally disturbing the authorities. If convicted, he faces up to three years of imprisonment, according to his lawyer. His lawyers have said that authorities have violated several fair trial guarantees as they refused to provide them copies of his casefile ahead of the trial, which began on 2 September, and banned media and foreign diplomats from observing hearings without explanation. Hisham Kassem, who is being held in the 10th of Ramadan prison, began a hunger strike on 23 August, which according to his lawyers had a detrimental impact on his health. He suspended it on 12 September. The ruling is expected on 16 September.

    I urge you to ensure that Hisham Kassem is immediately and unconditionally released and all charges against him dropped as he is detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression. The Egyptian authorities must stop using criminal defamation laws to muzzle dissidents and amend the Egyptian Penal Code and other relevant laws to bring them in line with Egypt’s obligations under international human rights law including by decriminalizing “insult” and “defamation” and treating “defamation” as a matter for civil litigation.

    Yours sincerely,