'I'm no criminal to be bailed out': Egyptian activist Hisham Kassem sued over alleged libel charges
Crackdown against dissidents in Egypt has reportedly continued as a Cairo prosecutor has remanded high-profile political activist Hisham Kassem into custody, pending further investigations into the charges of allegedly defaming ex-minister of manpower Kamal Abu-Eita on social media.
"The prosecutor's decision came on Monday evening, one day after Kassem had rejected to pay a 5,000-Egyptian-pound bail [about $US 160], arguing that he had the right to be released without bail," prominent human rights lawyer Gamal Eid told The New Arab.
"His lawyers, several public figures and activists attempted to talk him out of his decision. But Kassem insisted," Eid added.
"I'm no thief or criminal to be bailed out…Being jailed won't break me…Neither complying with this charade will break me…I decided not to pay the bail and stay in custody," Kassem, also the former publisher of Egypt's once-leading independent newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, told his supporters.
Kassem's defence team filed a plaint that was rejected one day later.
Kassem was faced with similar charges by the same prosecution's office when a police officer and several low-ranking police officers operating at the police station where he had been held accused him of public slander during his time in custody.
Earlier last month, a war of words erupted between Kassem and Abu-Eita, a prominent labour rights defender and an opposition leader, during the reign of late long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak, over their political allegiances.
Abu-Eita is now known for being loyal to the current regime of Sisi and a member of the presidential pardon committee of prisoners.
Kassem has been a vocal critic of the regime of Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and an internationally award-winning defender of free press and freedom of expression in Egypt.
Most recently, he has been designated as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of "The Free Current," an independent political group formed of several former politicians, political activists and intellectuals.
About 60,000 political prisoners are estimated to have been behind bars in Egypt; many face abuse, torture and medical neglect, per the estimation of local and international human rights groups.
Reporters Without Borders has called the North African country "one of the world's biggest jailers of journalists" and ranked Egypt 166 out of 180 in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index.