The North Cairo court upheld on Tuesday the release of Ezz El-Din Khaled, a member of the local band “Street Children”, after the general prosecution appealed his release.
Khaled was arrested on Sunday on charges of inciting protests and publishing inappropriate videos online. After spending a day in detention, Khaled was released on EGP 10,000 bail.
“Street Children” gained fame online for its satirical videos posted on Facebook about ongoing political events and leaders, namely President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
Khaled’s arrest stirred anger on social media, particularly among young people, who contested that sarcasm is not a crime. However, the rest of the band were arrested one day after Khaled.
The other four members were ordered by the prosecution to be held in remand for 15 days after they faced charges, in initial investigations, of publishing offending videos and inciting demonstrations.
According to rights lawyer Tarek Al-Awady, who attended investigations with the band members, the prosecution re-investigated the band and added charges of co-founding a group that aims to topple the regime and spreading false news that can harm public interest and incite the toppling of the regime.
In a phone call to a talk show on Orbit TV channel, Al-Awady said the charges are based on a report filed by security agencies against the band members. He said they were questioned during investigations about one of their videos in which they mocked the maritime demarcation agreement that saw sovereignty of Sanafir and Tiran islands transferred to Saudi Arabia.
“Anyone who says the islands are Egyptian is a traitor,” one of the band members says in the video before mocking the speech Al-Sisi delivered in defence of the agreement.
On the same TV show, Minister of Youth Khaled Abdel Aziz refused to specifically address the band’s case. However, he said: “I’ve been handed lists of a lot of names of young people. I assure you that I hand these lists over to the presidency and I talk to the minister of interior and I try as much as I can at least to present the other perspective. At the end of the day, the matter is left to security and judicial authorities.”
Abdel Aziz defended his ministry and said he held meetings with youth representatives from political parties, one of which was attended by Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in which Shoukry explained the state’s stance on the demarcation agreement.
What Abdel Aziz did not mention is that during that meeting members of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP) and Al-Dostour party suspended their participation until detainees being held in relation to the protests over the islands are released.
On Sunday, the acting president of Al-Dostour party Tamer Gomaa sent a letter to Abdel Aziz explaining the stance of his party and attached it with names of arrested party members in response to the ministry’s invitation to the party to send representatives to take part in the meeting.