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Egyptian YouTube star arrested over videos criticising Sisi

Youtuber Shadi Srour was arrested in Cairo International Airport [Shadi Srour/Youtube]

Date of publication: 28 December, 2019

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Comedian Shady Srour was arrested upon his arrival at Cairo International Airport from the United States earlier this week.

Egyptian authorities have arrested a famous Egyptian Youtube star who criticised President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in a Youtube video, according to a rights lawyer and local media.

Online comedian Shady Srour was arrested at Cairo International Airport earlier this week upon his arrival from the United States.

Local Arabic-language newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that he would be tried together with a number of other defendants. Prosecutors allege that they incited protests to overthrow the government.

Mohamed Lotfy, executive director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, said on Friday that Srour had declined legal counsel during his first round of questioning. Lofti's group has been active in defending those arrested in an ongoing government crackdown.

Srour had been living abroad since 2016.

In recent years the 24-year-old, who is also an actor, has gained fame on YouTube with satirical videos that attracted millions of viewers.

Last fall, he posted a video titled "Enough Sisi" in which he endorsed calls made by the self-exiled Egyptian businessman Mohamed Ali to rise against the president. In the video, Srour plays both the roles of a father and a young man arguing over the state of the country.

With more than 5.6 million subscribers, Srour's YouTube videos garner widespread attention. 

Ali, a contractor who said he had worked with the military for years, has accused Sisi of misusing public funds to build presidential palaces.

The self-exiled business man has since been sentenced in absentia to five years in prison.

After Ali's calls to protest, hundreds of Egyptians took to the streets in late September in a rare demonstration.

Read more: Sisi's brutal crackdown continues, aided by western accomplices

Since then, authorities have arrested thousands of people, and some hundreds have subsequently been released.

In 2013, as defence minister, Sisi led the military's removal of the country's first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, after his one-year rule proved divisive and sparked massive nationwide protests.

Morsi had risen through the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's oldest Islamist organisation. Under Sisi, it has been banned and labeled a terrorist group. The government regularly accuses its critics of collaborating with the Brotherhood.

Since becoming president, Sisi has overseen a wide-reaching crackdown against dissent, jailing thousands.

Read more: Blast-proof tourism: Egypt builds a wall around Sharm el-Sheikh to 'keep out terrorists and Bedouins'

Earlier this week, Egypt's top military court upheld a five-year sentence against a publisher who was convicted of spreading false news and disclosing state secrets in a military trial last year, according to pro-government media and rights lawyers.

Khaled Lotfi was arrested in April 2018 after his publishing house began selling an Arabic translation of a book by an Israeli academic who claimed that a top aide of late President Anwar Sadat was collaborating with the Israeli intelligence services in the lead-up to the Egyptian-Israeli war of 1973.

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