Magdy El Shafee, author of Egypt’s first graphic novel, Metro, was arrested by security forces on Friday in downtown Cairo. According to fellow author Muhammad Aladdin, El Shafee was detained near Abdel Moneim Riyad Square, where clashes between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and protesters had raged throughout the day.
According to legal activist Dr. Negad El Borai and multiple other sources, El Shafee had gone down to try to stop the clashes and was arrested at random along with thirty-eight other protesters. “El Shafee was walking through the Square when the police arrested him. He did not try to flee because he hadn’t done anything,” said author Mohammed Fathy.
El Shafee appeared before the court at the Qasr el Nil on Saturday afternoon, and was transferred to Tora Prison for four days of interrogation. El Shafee faces a preposterous list of seven accusations, including everything from demonstrating, threatening to use force, acquiring an unlicensed weapon, carrying weapons and ammunition, the attempted murder of three police officers, assaulting a public officer, and destroying private and public facilities.
El Shafee had previously been arrested under former president Hosni Mubarak for his graphic novel Metro, a vivid portrait of poverty and corruption under Mubarak’s rule. Metro was immediately banned upon its publication in January 2008 on the grounds of “offending public morals”; police raided the Malameh publishing house, confiscated all copies of the book, and banned Malameh from printing further copies. El-Shafee as well as his publisher, Mohamed El Sharkawi, were both arrested and ultimately fined 5,000 LE. Even after Mubarak was overthrown, the graphic novel has only recently been made available in Arabic in Egypt.
El Shafee participated in the protests that brought down Mubarak, during which he drew and distributed a graphic journal documenting the harsh attacks of the regime, and was injured in the Mohamed Mahmoud protests of November 2011.
In a profile of El Shafee published in Al-Watan on April 20th, Amr Ezz El-Din wrote: “It is as if the Muslim Brotherhood, the new governing forces, do not want to miss this opportunity themselves… El Shafee had been [in Abdel Moneim Riyad Square] during the day, and refused to flee when security forces surrounded him, grabbed hold of him, and beat him. He was completely innocent; his only crime was his presence in the Square. Security policies remain the same under Morsi’s rule, only differing from Mubarak’s rule for the worse.”
We'll post updates as we have them. You can follow the campaign to release El Shafee at #freemagdy.
Update: Mohamed Hashem, founder and director of Merit Press, has announced a protest in solidarity with Magdy El Shafee at 5pm on Sunday April 21st on the steps of the Cairo Journalists' Syndicate.
Update: Magdy El Shafee was released on bail of 1,000 LE from the Qasr el Aini police station on Monday night. In a post on Facebook, he wrote: “Thanks to you, today I am free. And thanks to you, Egypt will be free tomorrow.”