Amnesty calls on Egypt to stop 'shameful' prosecution of journalist who spoke out against sexual violence

Amnesty calls on Egypt to stop 'shameful' prosecution of journalist who spoke out against sexual violence
2 min read
12 March, 2022
Journalist and rights activist Rasha Azab risks a two-year jail term, a maximum fine of 50,000 Egyptian pounds ($3,200) or both.
Amnesty International called the prosecution of journalist Rasha Azab 'shameful' [ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP/Getty-file photo]

Amnesty International urged Egypt on Saturday to stop the "shameful" prosecution of journalist Rasha Azab, who the organisation said is being tried for supporting alleged sexual violence victims.

Azab faces accusations of "insult", "defamation" and "deliberately disturbing [the plaintiff]" after she tweeted support for six individuals who anonymously alleged that film director Islam Azazi had perpetrated sexual violence against them, including one rape.

Azab used offensive language to show her disapproval for the alleged impunity the director benefits from.

The journalist risks a two-year jail term, a maximum fine of 50,000 Egyptian pounds ($3,200) or both.

"Rasha Azab is a well-known political activist and defender of women’s rights in Egypt," Philip Luther, Amnesty Middle East research and advocacy director,  said in a statement on Saturday.

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"Prosecuting her for expressing solidarity with survivors of sexual violence sends a chilling message that women should suffer in silence and refrain from seeking justice and redress for rape and sexual violence," Luther said.

"The Egyptian authorities must immediately end the judicial harassment against Rasha Azab, and instead focus on addressing the epidemic of widespread sexual violence in Egypt," he added.

"It is the state's responsibility to prevent and investigate sexual and gender-based violence, yet Egypt has repeatedly opted to instead punish those who speak out against it."

From December 2020 to November last year, Azab made multiple Twitter posts supporting Azazi's anonymous accusers.

In January, Azazi filed a complaint against Azab and Aida El-Kashef, another director, who supported the alleged victims on Facebook.

Azazi said the two women had "defamed" him. Within days of him lodging his complaint, Egyptian authorities chose to transfer the Azab case to court.

Amnesty found that "Egyptian authorities routinely fail to adequately prevent and investigate widespread violence against women and girls in Egypt".

The organisation said that "authorities have threatened, arbitrarily detained, and prosecuted survivors, witnesses and activists who report or campaign against sexual violence".