Egypt’s Court of Cassation upholds imprisonment of rights defender Amal Fathi

Egypt’s highest court on Tuesday upheld the conviction and prison sentence of rights defender Amal Fathy

Egypt’s Court of Cassation on 11 January 2022 upheld the imprisonment of rights human defender Amal Fathi although the sentence was reduced to one year in prison instead of two years, with enforcement

Amal Fathi was arrested and detained for posting a video detailing an incident of sexual harassment she faced and criticizing authorities’ leniency toward the perpetrators.

After Fathy posted that video, police raided her home in May 2018 and brought Fathy, her husband—Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) Executive Director Mohamed Lotfy—and their three-year-old son to a police station.

Four months later, a court sentenced her to two years in prison on charges of “spreading false news” and “possessing indecent material,” before she was released on bail in December 2018. The sentence was reduced to one year by yesterday’s ruling.

Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) noted that the ruling is yet another example of authorities “punishing women simply for expressing the amount of suffering and psychological and physical harm they are subjected to on a daily basis due to crimes of sexual harassment” and demonstrates their “lack of seriousness in combating crimes of violence against women in Egypt.”

Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director Philip Luther concurred with ECRF’s assessment, stating that the court’s decision “yet again shows that the Egyptian authorities are keen on whitewashing rather than improving their appalling human rights record.” He added, “No one should face punishment—let alone imprisonment—for exercising their right to freedom of expression to call for safer environments for women.”

POMED Director of Advocacy Seth Binder commented, “The Egyptian regime claims—with some buying the argument—that women’s rights are improving inside Egypt. [Fathy’s] sentence demonstrates why that is not true.”

More renewals of pretrial detentions

In the same context, the Cairo Criminal Court has renewed the pretrial detentions of several political prisoners over the past several days, including that of activist Radwa Mohamed, who was arrested in November 2019 for posting YouTube videos criticizing President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The court also renewed the pretrial detentions of blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah and human rights lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer in their original case, 1356/2019, for a further 45 days. Both were convicted and sentenced to multiple years in prison last month in a separate case with charges copied from Case 1356/2019.

At the hearing, El-Baqer’s defense team filed a complaint to cancel his prison sentence and request his release.

On the same day, the court released 11 defendants from three cases. One of them was a trader who was arrested after complaining on social media about difficult market conditions and was then added to the same case as Abdel Fattah and El-Baqer.

National Human Rights Council member Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat recently claimed that a “major breakthrough” in releasing people from pretrial detention was imminent, adding that he was “very optimistic about the year 2022.”

Meanwhile, one year after three defendants were acquitted of attacking a Christian woman over rumors of a romantic relationship between her son and a Muslim woman, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights urged the Court of Cassation to finally set a hearing for the appeal against their acquittals.