Egyptian activist jailed for posting sexual harassment video

Amal Fathy has been convicted of spreading 'fake news' through a Facebook video she posted in May.

    A mural depicting anti-sexual harassment message and reading 'Safe cities' seen at a highway in Cairo [Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters]
    A mural depicting anti-sexual harassment message and reading 'Safe cities' seen at a highway in Cairo [Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters]

    A court in Egypt has handed a female human rights activist two years in jail over a video she posted on social media criticising the government for failing to protect women against sexual harassment.

    Amal Fathy, 38, was convicted on Saturday of spreading fake news and fined 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($562), her lawyers said.

    "We will challenge the ruling," her lawyer Doaa Mustafa said, adding Fathy could pay 20,000 pounds to have her sentence suspended.

    Fathy was arrested in May, days after she posted a 12-minute Facebook video expressing her anger at poor public services at a local bank, sexual harassment by a taxi driver, and over a general deterioration in living conditions in the country.

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    Fathy is already in detention, awaiting trial in another case in which she is accused of being a member of the now banned April 6 youth movement, which played a role in the 2011 protests that forced president Hosni Mubarak from office.

    "This is injustice, unjustified and incomprehensible. We have provided all the evidence to prove that she didn't spread false news," said her husband, Mohamed 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'," he said.

    Amnesty International denounced the "disgraceful" verdict against Fathy, saying she has been jailed "simply for her courage to speak out against sexual harassment".

    "This is an outrageous case of injustice, where the survivor is sentenced while the abuser remains at large," the rights group's representative Najia Bounaim said in a statement.

    Unsafe for women

    The problem of sexual harassment in Egypt gained worldwide attention during and after the 2011 uprising that toppled Mubarak, when women were harassed, groped - and in some cases, beaten and sexually assaulted - during mass protests.

    Some 60 percent of women in Egypt said they had been victims of some form of sexual harassment during their lives in a 2017 report from UN Women and Promundo.

    A study released last year by the Thomson Reuters Foundation ranked Cairo as the most dangerous megacity in the world for women.

    In 2014, the government passed a law making sexual harassment punishable by up to five years in prison, but it is not widely enforced, particularly when it comes to what are considered milder forms of street harassment.

    Rights groups have repeatedly criticised Egypt's human rights situation, saying conditions have continued to deteriorate under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who came to power in 2013 after the army overthrew president Mohamed Morsi following protests against his rule.

    On Friday, 17 UN human rights experts criticised Egypt for its use of anti-terrorism laws to detain activists fighting for women's rights and against corruption, torture and extrajudicial killings.

    Egypt passed a law in July giving the state powers to block social media accounts and penalise journalists held to be publishing fake news.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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