SUN 19 - 1 - 2020
Oct 1, 2018
The Daily Star
Court sentences Egypt activist who slammed sexual harassment
CAIRO: An Egyptian court has sentenced an activist to two years in jail over a video she posted on social media criticizing the government for failing to protect women against sexual harassment and over poor living conditions, her lawyer said. Amal Fathy’s verdict also includes a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($560). However, she won’t walk free, as she is still held on other charges, including membership in an outlawed group and misuse of social media networks to spread material that could hurt security and public interest.
“Membership in an outlawed group” is Egyptian government parlance for having ties to a range of groups that it has outlawed, including the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization that authorities have banned and labeled a terrorist group. Fathy was a member of the now banned April 6 youth movement that played a role in 2011 protests that forced President Hosni Mubarak from office.
One of Fathy’s defense lawyers Doaa Mustafa said she was in the holding cells of the courthouse, not in the courtroom where the verdict was announced. “I went to see her after the verdict. She was squatting at the far end of the cell, crying and screaming. She was trembling and did not want anyone to come near her,” Mustafa told the Associated Press.
Fathy was detained in May after posting a video online criticizing the state for deteriorating public services and unchallenged sexual harassment. She cited alleged harassment at the branch of a local state-owned bank. She was arrested with her husband, Mohammad Lotfy, and their son, Ziad, who turned 3 last month. The husband and child were released several hours later.
“This is injustice, unjustified and incomprehensible. We have provided all the evidence to prove that she didn’t spread false news,” said Lotfy, a human rights activist and executive director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms.
“When a woman is subjected to sexual harassment and gets sentenced to two years and fined then this means we are telling all Egyptian women, ‘Shut your mouths ... if you don’t want to go to prison.’”
Some 60 percent of women in Egypt said they had been victims of some form of sexual harassment during their life, in a 2017 report from U.N. Women and Promundo.
The video also shows her using profanities to describe her experience at the bank, repeatedly insulting the state.
Amnesty International decried the verdict, saying that it was an “outrageous case of injustice.”
Fathy is a “human rights defender and sexual harassment survivor, who told her truth to the world and highlighted the vital issue of women’s safety in Egypt,” the statement said.
“She is not a criminal and should not be punished for her bravery.”
Fathy is the latest victim of the Egyptian authorities’ campaign against activists who speak out against the government.
Since leading the military’s 2013 overthrow of an elected but divisive president the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammad Morsi President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has overseen a crackdown on dissent, jailing thousands of Islamists along with secular, pro-democracy advocates, imposing tight control of the media and rolling back freedoms won in a popular 2011 uprising.
Sisi says his government’s top priorities are security and overhauling the battered economy.
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