An Egyptian Court Sends a Woman to Rigorous Imprisonment for Administrating a Facebook Page

The Criminal Court in Zagazig,  Sharqia, has sent Ghada Abdel Hamid to rigorous imprisonment for 15 years. Ghada Abdel Hamid (26-years) was charged of administrating a Facebook page, the page is called “Women against the Coup”.  The Facebook page is used to document and trace the human rights abuses and violations committed against women by the Egyptian security forces.

The Egyptian security forces in coordination with the national security sector as well as the information and documentation department of the Ministry of Interior at al-Sharqia governorate had traced Ghada’s posts on the Facebook page. The security forces stated that she has been posting inciting events on the FB against the regime, the military, and the police forces.

Since the military coup in 2013 that ousted the first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian military regime has launched massive attacks against political opponents mainly the Islamic opposition.

In recent months, the Egyptian government has arrested or jailed several people for posting comments on Facebook that it considered inflammatory. Days before the fifth anniversary of January revolution, two people were arrested for managing Facebook pages that authorities alleged were inciting action against the state and calling for protests.

Moreover, a cybercrime bill has been drafted in Egypt’s parliament. Human rights organizations have criticized the cybercrime bill, saying it has high potential for abuse and imposes excessive sentences against violators.

A report on the bill titled “Antagonizing Technology” has been published by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Support for Information Technology Center, and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression.

The report said that the bill, prepared by MP Tamer El-Shahawy, a former army officer, in May to the House of Representatives’ complaints and suggestions committee, was presented to parliament amid “non-transparency and the exclusion of civil society.”

According to the report, the law mandates prison terms that are harsher than those for similar crimes committed through other means, including punishments for “blasphemy” and “inciting to protest.” The statement reads,”The bill violates equality in front of the law, as it punishes for acts committed on the internet with sentences much harsher – reaching life in jail and death sentences – than those for the same crimes committed through other means.”

Rights groups also said, “The draft law consists of mostly partial articles that are poorly worded and vague.”

For example, articles 12, 13 and 26 stipulate possible prison terms for information technology systems managers, where IT officials can be jailed if a successful cyber-attack is carried out on the computer systems they are managing.

The bill also allows prosecutors to ask courts to block internet content if it “threatens national security” (articles 14 and 15), with the report arguing that this can be used to suppress information from the Egyptian public in the name of national security.

In addition, the report said that articles 11 and 23 are “the most dangerous in the law,” according to the statement, as they punish actions that “threaten public order” with sentences that reach life in jail if committed on the internet.

The statement said that according to this law, “inciting to protest becomes a more serious crime than protesting itself.”

The Bill also puts everyone who carry out online journalism in greater danger than other journalists, who are already threatened.

In the same context, the Egyptian government has already taken certain steps in monitoring the internet and social media. Egypt blocked Facebook’s “Free Basics” Internet service program at the end of last year after the company refused to give authorities access to user accounts, according to a Reuters report. Free Basics offers limited Internet access to people in 37 developing countries.