Rights group urges lawyers to defend Okasha

A local human rights watchdog has urged lawyers to join the defense team of the media host Tawfiq Okasha who is facing charges of insulting the president and inciting his killing.

The Union of Lawyers for Legal Studies, an NGO, said in a statement that lawyers should defend Okasha regardless their agreement or disagreements with his political views.

“Defending Okasha is defending freedom of opinion and expression, which must be guaranteed to all after the revolution, whether pro- or anti-government,” the union said in a statement. It has also formed a defense team for that purpose.

Okasha’s trial is on 1 September.

Okasha, who is known for his harsh criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood and its political rise since the 25 January revolution, has recently stepped up his criticism of President Mohamed Morsy, saying his presence in the presidential palace is illegal.

On Thursday, the United States said on Thursday it was "very concerned" about freedom of the press in Egypt after authorities moved to try two critics of President Morsy.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that the legal actions ran counter to the spirit of last year's revolution, in which Egyptians took to the streets and toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.

"We are very concerned by reports that the Egyptian government is moving to restrict media freedom and criticism in Egypt," Nuland told reporters.

Nuland specifically criticized Egypt for actions against the small independent newspaper Al-Dostour and Okasha’s satellite channel, Al-Faraeen. Both outlets have strongly criticized Morsy's Muslim Brotherhood movement.

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