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Egypt releases comedian after more than 2 years in prison

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CAIRO (AP) Egyptian authorities released a comedian who was working on a popular satirical television program after more than two years in prison without trial, a human rights lawyer said on Sunday.

Lawyer Mokhtar Mounir said Shady Abu Zaid was released from a police station in Cairo late Saturday, but as part of his release conditions he has to report to a police station twice a week.

His sister, Roula Abu Zaid, confirmed the news in a Facebook post and shared a photo of the brothers and their friends at home after his release.

Police arrested Abu Zaid in May 2018 after plainclothes officers safely raided his home in Cairo. He was accused of joining an illegal group, a reference to the banned Muslim Brotherhood and spreading false news.

Earlier this month, a court ordered his conditional release after he exceeded the two-year allowed period of detention.

Abu Zaid was working on camera for a satirical program, whose director was a puppet named Abla Fahita. The show has been canceled. Prior to his arrest, he also produced a show called Rich Content that was popular on social media networks.

In 2016, he sparked controversy over the distribution of balloons made with inflated condoms to police officers on the fifth anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak and aimed at reforming the heavy security apparatus of the security state.

Abu Zaid was one of the many critics of the government behind bars in Egypt amid a multi-year crackdown by the government of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on the media. More than 60 journalists are imprisoned in Egypt, according to the International Press Institute, which ranks among the worst prisons in the world for journalists.

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