Filmmaker who mocked Egypt’s President Sisi dies in prison aged 22

Egyptian filmmaker detained without trial for more than two years for filming a video clip that mocked President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi died on Saturday in a maximum security prison complex, two human rights lawyers said.

Lawyer Ahmed el-Khwaga said his 22-year-old client Shady Habash died in the Tora prison complex in Cairo. He said the cause of death was not immediately clear.

There were no immediate comments from the Interior Ministry, which oversees the Egyptian prison system.

Police forces arrested the young filmmaker in March 2018 after making a clip of Ramy Essam, an Egyptian musician exiled in Sweden. The video featured a song that mocked the general who became president, comparing it to a fruitful date and condemning the alleged government corruption.

Khaled Ali, a human rights lawyer, said Habash should have been released two months ago after serving the maximum prison sentence during the ongoing investigations.

Galal el-Behairy, who wrote the song in the video, was also arrested in 2018 after the video angered the government when it went viral on social media with millions of views on YouTube.

El-Behairy was sentenced by an Egyptian military court to three years in prison after his conviction for “insulting the security forces” and “spreading false news”.

After his death, Habash’s friends published a letter he wrote from prison in October in which he spoke of his desperation. “Prison doesn’t kill, loneliness does,” he writes, describing what he called his struggle to “keep you from going mad or dying slowly because you were thrown into a room two years ago.” and forgotten “.

“His psychological state was very bad,” el-Khwaga said of Habash when he last visited two months ago.

Habash’s death has once again drawn attention to the dangers of Egyptian prisons as al-Sisi intensifies the crackdown on dissent. Many detainees are serving sentences for crimes that they insist have not been committed or have not been charged at all. Thousands of people are being held in Egyptian prisons pending trial, according to human rights groups.

Death also occurs in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Overcrowded prison cells could be fertile ground for the spread of the virus, which causes COVID-19 disease. Egypt has around 6,200 confirmed cases and more than 400 deaths.

Earlier this year, a US citizen who went on hunger strike in a six-year battle against what he called wrongful imprisonment died in prison for heart failure.

Egyptian authorities said at the time that they would investigate the death of Mustafa Kassem, 54, a spare parts dealer of Egyptian origin from Long Island, New York.

Kassem was in Cairo to visit his family in August 2013 when his lawyers said he was mistakenly caught in a phone call during the violent dispersal of an Islamist sit-in that killed hundreds of people . He was sentenced to 15 years in prison during a 2018 mass trial of more than 700 defendants widely convicted by human rights groups.