Egypt jails activist for posting video on sexual harassment

Egyptian human rights activist Amal Fathy has been given a two-year suspended jail sentence for posting a video in May on sexual harassment she faced during a bank visit in capital Cairo.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government, which has launched a crackdown on women activist groups, also fined her $560 for spreading “false news” and possessing “indecent material.”

Fathy is likely to appeal her sentence.

Al-Sisi, who drew women voters during the March presidential campaign by promising them safety in the streets, is now focused on curbing dissent instead of protecting women.

Fathy’s husband Mohamed Lotfy, who heads the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedom, was not allowed into the courthouse during the sentencing on Saturday.

Fathy has been in jail since May 11 when she was arrested along with her husband and three-year-old child from their home. Lotfy and the child were released later.

Fathy is facing another trial for being an alleged member of a terrorist organisation. Egypt has made cyber laws stricter and social media users are seen as a threat to security with some 6,000 people under surveillance.

Lotfy said Saturday’s ruling sends a clear message across that harassers can roam free in Egypt while their accusers will be punished.

Amnesty International asked the authorities to immediately drop all charges against Fathy and release her.

Fathy spoke the truth to tell the world how the government is ignoring women’s safety. For that brave act, the authorities are treating her like a criminal, Najia Bounaim, Amnesty’s North Africa campaigns director, said.

In July, a Lebanese tourist Mona al-Mazbouh returning home was arrested at Cairo international airport for allegedly spreading rumours to harm society and attack religion.

She was initially sentenced to eight years in prison. The sentence was later reduced to one year and then suspended before she was deported in September.

While a 2013 UN survey said 99% of Egyptian women experienced some form of sexual harassment and a 2017 Thomson Reuters Foundation poll called Cairo the “most dangerous mega-city in the world for women” , Egypt’s national council for women says only 9.6% of women in Egypt are being  sexually harassed.