Date :Monday, October 1st, 2018 | Time : 09:45 |ID: 72507 | Print

An Egyptian woman activist jailed for speaking out on sexual harassment

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SHAFAQNA– An Egyptian woman human rights defender, Amal Fathy, who has already spent 141 days in prison, has been convicted for posting a Facebook video decrying sexual harassment and criticizing the Egyptian to two-year jail sentence.

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, Aljazeera reported.

In early May, Fathy posted a video to Facebook that described how she had been sexually harassed at a bank. She also criticized living conditions in Egypt more generally and discussed issues of sexual harassment at large, claiming the government does not do enough to protect women from this type of aggressive behavior.

The video circulated widely online and was picked up by some media outlets. Days later, police arrived at her house to arrest her. Since then, she has spent more than 140 days in prison, and allegations against her have grown to include claims she belongs to a terrorist organization. Reuters reported she was a member of the April 6 youth movement, an activist group that is now banned, Washington post reported.

Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International’s North Africa Campaigns Director, said “Amal Fathy is now facing a disgraceful sentence 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. She 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. She is not a criminal and should not be punished for her bravery.

“We are once again calling on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Amal Fathy and drop all charges against her. Her imprisonment for peacefully expressing her opinions is an affront to the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Egypt’s own constitution and its international obligations, as well as Egypt’s repeated commitments to combat sexual harassment.

“It is currently more dangerous to criticize the government in Egypt than at any time in the country’s recent history. Egyptians living under President al-Sisi are treated as criminals simply for peacefully expressing their opinions”, Amnesty international reported.

“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.

He said everyone knows sexual violence exists in Egypt and across the world. But in my country, abuse has become so common that it goes unreported. If someone refuses to accept it, they become the odd one out. That’s what happened to Amal. She decided to take a stand and share her story – and now she’s being punished for it.

She’s a strong woman who dreams of becoming an actress. She is sociable, straight-talking, honest, and loves to laugh. But prison can destroy even the strongest of people.

Lotfy previously worked for Amnesty, in a personal statement published to the rights group’s website in August, he wrote that his wife’s arrest “shocked and gutted” him.

He said that though she was originally granted bail in the Facebook video case, she was then held in pretrial detention for a number of other charges, including “intentionally disseminating false news that could harm public security and interest.” She was also accused of “using a website to promote ideas calling for terrorist acts.”

“Instead of prosecuting perpetrators of violence against women, the Egyptian authorities are persecuting Amal Fathy for speaking out against sexual harassment,” Amnesty International said in a statement in August, when it called on Egyptian authorities to release Fathy and drop the charges. “It is a shocking case of injustice.

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