November 29 verdict for Egypt activist over election tweet

November 29 verdict for Egypt activist over election tweet
2 min read
02 November, 2021
At the conclusion of his trial on Tuesday Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, tweeted the date of the expected verdict.
Bahgat is the director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights [Getty]

An Egyptian court is to issue a verdict on November 29 in the case of Hossam Bahgat, one of the country's most prominent rights advocates who is being tried over a tweet.

At the conclusion of his trial on Tuesday Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, tweeted the date of the expected verdict.

His lawyer Negad El Borai in a Facebook post also confirmed the November 29 decision date.

Bahgat faces possible jail time if convicted on the accusation of "insulting" Egypt's electoral commission, after he alleged that incidents of electoral fraud and vote rigging had taken place during last year's parliamentary elections.

Parliament is mostly comprised of loyalists of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Critics view the chamber as a "rubber-stamp" body.

Since Sisi became president in 2014 following a military overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi the year before, he has overseen a sweeping crackdown on dissent with estimates of about 60,000 political prisoners jailed.

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In July, the US State Department expressed its concern to Cairo over the indictment of Bahgat, saying dissidents "should not be targeted for expressing their views peacefully".

Bahgat is already banned from travelling and his assets have been frozen because of a separate case in which he remains indicted.

Authorities have in recent years particularly targeted the group Bahgat founded.

Three EIPR staff members were jailed last year, sparking an international campaign supported by celebrities including Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson that resulted in their release.

Another EIPR researcher, Patrick Zaki, was detained in February 2020 and faces charges of "spreading false news" after he returned to Egypt from Italy, where he was studying at Bologna University.

Bahgat is also being prosecuted for "spreading false news", which can carry hefty fines and jail time.

Last week, Sisi announced the lifting of a state of emergency that had been in place since 2017 after a deadly militant attack on Coptic Christian churches.

But rights group Amnesty International on Monday criticised how Egypt's political climate is still "marred by ongoing trials of dozens of arbitrarily detained human rights defenders, activists, opposition politicians and peaceful protesters".