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Egypt: Opposition coalition criticises authorities following detention of key leader Hisham Kassem

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The Free Current Movement, a recently formed opposition coalition in Egypt, held a press conference in Cairo on Monday to voice strong criticism against the current government, following the detention of political activist and coalition leader, Hisham Kassem.

This coalition also referred to as ‘al-Tayar al-Hurr’, was established a few months ago as a merging of various opposition groups and figures.

Footage shows the executives of the coalition, which consists of the Reform and Development Party, Conservative Party, Al-Dostour Party and Misr al-Hurriya, providing their insights during the press conference.

The arrest of Hisham Kassem occurred last week on charges of slander and verbal assault. He remains in custody with a trial scheduled to commence on September 2. Members of the coalition have characterised his detention as ‘politically motivated’.

« We demand an end to the process of retaliation against Hisham Kassem, his release, the release of women and men prisoners of conscience, » said Gameela Ismail, Head of Al-Dostour Party during the press conference.

Mohamed Anwar El Sadat, Head of the Reform and Development Party, highlighted concerns about the legal process.

« We do not know what was written in the police report that was edited. The lawyers were not shown any papers, nor were they informed of the referral decision for trial, including the entry and description of the charges against him, » he stated.

Furthermore, the coalition members indicated that their decision to participate in the upcoming elections would be based on Kassem’s case and the fairness of the election process.

The elections are scheduled to take place in the early months of 2024, and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to run for a third term after the constitutional amendments.

« There are discussions and we are studying some options, including non-participation, whether with a candidate or a vote, but this option is on the table, but no decision has been taken yet. Of course, in the event of the release of Hisham Kassem, all of this will definitely be reviewed, and we will continue, » expressed Mohamed Anwar El Sadat.

Akmal Kurtam, Head of the Conservative Party, stressed the coalition’s approach to selecting a candidate.

« We have three or four candidates. If the electoral guarantees are fulfilled, we may agree on one of them. We may evaluate who among them is the most suitable, and at that time we will all agree on him. »

Reports indicate that Hisham Kassem was arrested after a public disagreement with former labour minister Kamal Abu Eita.

Under President al-Sisi’s leadership, Egypt has experienced increased repression of those who disagree with the government since he took office following the 2013 removal of the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to local sources, thousands of people, including prominent opposition figures from previous elections, have been detained during this time.

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