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Egypt court sentences activist who complained of sexual harassment

Egyptian women hold signs during a protest against sexual harassment in Cairo [Getty]

Date of publication: 29 September, 2018

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Amal Fathi posted a video on Facebook criticising sexual harassment in Egypt, and was subsequently convicted of spreading fake news.

An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced a human rights activist who posted a video criticising sexual harassment in Egypt, her lawyer said.

Amal Fathi, 33, who was arrested in May, was convicted of spreading fake news and fined 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($560 dollars), her lawyer Doaa Mustafa told AFP.

"We will challenge the ruling," Mustafa said, adding that Fathi could pay 20,000 pounds to have her two-year jail sentence suspended. 

However, Fathi is still in detention awaiting trial in another case in which she is accused of "membership in a terrorist group", her lawyer added.

Amnesty International denounced Saturday's "disgraceful" verdict against Fathi who, it said, was sentenced "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 Najia Bounaim said in a statement.

Fathi "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," Bounaim said.

"She is not a criminal and should not be punished for her bravery."

Fathi was arrested in May after posting a Facebook video in which she accused authorities of failing to protect women and charging that guards at a bank had sexually harassed her.

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

Public debate over harassment intensified in the aftermath of the January 2011 uprising against former president Hosni Mubarak.

The protests demanding Mubarak's ouster centred around Cairo's Tahrir Square, where constant media coverage also highlighted sexual attacks and helped show public denial of the phenomenon.

Following the uprising, anti-harassment graffiti spread around downtown Cairo, volunteers organised to rescue women from mob attacks, and more women shared their own stories publicly.

Earlier this month, Egyptian authorities freed Lebanese tourist Mona al-Mazbouh who was jailed for "harming" its people after claiming in a video to have been sexually assaulted. 

She was arrested in late May at Cairo airport and was jailed for eight years in July, after saying she had been the victim of sexual harassment in the streets and accusing Egyptians of stealing.

She appealed the verdict and it was accepted by a Cairo court.

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