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Farmer arrested for putting hat on donkey and naming it after a general

Egyptian police have cracked down on any perceived criticism of its powerful military in the wake of the coup against former President Mohamed Morsi

An Egyptian farmer has been arrested for putting a military-style hat on a donkey, naming it after a general and riding it through town.

Omar Abul-Magd was detained late on Friday in a remote part of the Qena province and accused of insulting General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who led the coup which ousted former President Mohamed Morsi in July.

The offence of criticising the country’s powerful media has been met with increasingly tough punishment in the wake of unrest following the forceful seizure of control in Egypt from the Muslim Brotherhood.

On Saturday eight people across Egypt were also arrested for breaking laws against anti-military graffiti, the state MENA news agency reported.

While el-Sissi has been hailed as a positive icon by millions of Egyptians, it is a mark of the ongoing divisions in the country that many continue to publicly lambast him, calling the general a traitor and a murderer for overseeing the removal of the Muslim leadership and the August raids on two pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo that set off violence that killed hundreds nationwide.

Security officials said that at least one of the eight detained for alleged anti-el-Sissi graffiti was held in Cairo.

Earlier this week a military court ordered five pro-Morsi protesters to serve between two and three years in prison for chanting against the army. Three of them were tried in absentia.

The court said the defendants spread hate speech and false rumors against the military through loud speakers.

Rights advocates fear Egypt's interim, military-backed authorities are using a state of emergency that grants police broad powers of arrest to silence critics.

For decades, any critical mention of the country's army or its top generals was unthinkable in Egypt.

After the popular uprising that ousted autocratic President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, criticism of the military grew as Egypt's powerful generals took over. Activists began lashing out at the ruling generals for trying civilians in military courts and using violence against protesters.

In one case, former lawmaker and rights advocate Ziad el-Oleimi came under fire for referencing an Egyptian proverb that some saw as an insult to then-military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi. El-Oleimi, who was earlier beaten by military police during a protest after he was elected to parliament, had referred to Tantawi as a donkey during a rally.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press