EL-ARISH, Egypt – An Egyptian cartoonist, whose work is occasionally critical of government figures, was arrested in the capital, Cairo, on Sunday and charged with running a webpage without a license, the country's Interior Ministry said in a statement.
The arrest of Islam Gaweesh appears to be part of an intensified clampdown on activists and journalists in Egypt, where many have been detained, questioned and even forcibly disappeared in recent months.
In custody, Gaweesh was told that the only charge actually against him so far was "publishing drawings that are offensive to the regime," his lawyer Mahmoud Othman told The Associated Press.
Most of Gaweesh's work dealt with the mundanities of life in Egypt. One of his most recent cartoons tackled the recent cold snap in the country by showing a man asking his love interest on the phone why she is cold in an effort to appear manly. "The weather is great," he says before being interrupted by a group of penguins in the window telling him to shut up.
One of the few cartoons Gaweesh has recently drawn that are critical of government figures targeted a foul-mouthed pro-government lawyer and lawmaker Mortada Mansour, who often threatens to beat his political opponents with his shoes. Earlier this month, Mansour was selected to head the parliament's human rights committee.
In Gaweesh's caricature, Mansour is shown standing next to a torturer and his victim saying: "Lash the lights out of him, but gently."
Ever since the military overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013 amid mass protests against his rule, the government has launched a crackdown on dissent, killing hundreds of protesters and throwing thousands of Islamists in prison. Many of the young pro-democracy activists who spearheaded the 2011 uprising, which was partly sparked by government limitations on freedom of speech and expression, have been swept up in the campaign.
The statement from the Interior Ministry, which runs the police force in Egypt, said Gaweesh was arrested at the headquarters of the news website, Egypt News Network, which they raided on Sunday after official investigations revealed that it was publishing news without a license.
ENN has been operating since 2011.
Earlier on Sunday, two homemade bombs in the restive north of the Sinai Peninsula killed four and wounded five members of the security forces in two separate attacks, medical and security officials said.
Violence picked up in the area, near the border with the Palestinian Gaza Strip, last week, with four civilians killed in fighting between the army and Islamic extremists, and at least six soldiers killed in roadside bombings.
Egypt has been hit with a wave of suicide bombings and militant attacks that intensified after Morsi's ouster in 2013. A local Islamic State affiliate has claimed responsibility for many of the attacks.