Arrested on January 25th 2021 and like all prisoners experiencing heightened risk to his well-being due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Egyptian animator Ashraf Hamdi has been in jail for one-hundred-and-fifty days. Cartoonists Rights Network International and Cartooning for Peace call for his immediate release.
The joint statement reads as follows:
On January 25th 2021 Ashraf Hamdi, celebrated creator of the Egyptoon brand of animated satirical social media content, was arrested at his home in Giza, Egypt. He posted a brief comment – “They are coming.” – to his Facebook page shortly after re-posting a link to an old animated cartoon that made a humorous observation about the 2011 revolutionary movement, Jan. 25th having been the tenth anniversary of that event. The comment has since been deleted and the cartoon in question removed from YouTube.
Although no official, public acknowledgement has ever been published concerning Hamdi’s status nor of any charges against him his family and lawyers have established that he is being held within the penal system. A petition posted on a public forum by his Egyptoon colleagues in late March made reference to charges of “misdemeanour number 5535” and went on to clarify that Hamdi “is an artist who would always support his country and stand behind its leaders.”
June 24th marks one-hundred-and-fifty days without progress; Cartooning for Peace and Cartoonists Rights Network International ask those responsible for Hamdi’s detention to heed the call made in the March petition and without further delay release Ashraf Hamdi, with especial consideration given to his well-being in the midst of the pandemic.
The consensus is clear. Amnesty International have warned that the global prison population are the forgotten victims of COVID-19 and demanded that all prisoners of conscience be released. Freemuse, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders have all raised concerns about human rights abuses under pre-trial detention, again exacerbated by the pandemic which has had a delaying effect on judicial processes.
Under normal circumstances Egyptian law permits up to two years of pre-trial detention but it is now commonplace to see this extended yet further. Such an outcome must be avoided, particularly while the pandemic continues.
Bearing in mind that the only crime in question was to (re)post an animated video and that a full public apology has been made on his behalf, we call for his immediate release.
Let this one-hundred-and-fiftieth day be the last; show clemency and release Ashraf Hamdi.