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Egypt convicts activist of abuse, criticism of authorities

September 29, 2018

CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian court on Saturday handed down a suspended two-year sentence against a female activist convicted of insulting employees at a bank and using abusive language to criticize state institutions and decry sexual harassment of women.

Amal Fathy’s verdict also includes a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($560) but she won’t walk free, however, as she is still held on other charges, including membership in an outlawed group and misuse of social media networks to spread material that could hurt security and public interest.

“Membership in an outlawed group” is Egyptian government parlance for having ties to a range of groups that it has outlawed, including the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization that authorities have banned and labeled a terrorist group.

One of Fathy’s defense lawyers, Doaa Mustafa, said she was in the holding cells of the courthouse not in the courtroom where the verdict was announced.

“I went to see her after the verdict. She was squatting at the far end of the cell, crying and screaming. She was trembling and did not want anyone to come near her,” Mustafa told The Associated Press.

Fathy was detained in May after posting a video online criticizing the state for deteriorating public services and unchallenged sexual harassment. She cited alleged harassment at the branch of a local state-owned bank. She was arrested with her husband, activist Mohammed Lotfi, and their son, Ziad, who turned three last month. The husband and child were released several hours later.

The video also shows her using profanities to describe her experience at the bank, repeatedly insulting the state.

Amnesty International decried the verdict, saying it was an “outrageous case of injustice.”

Fathy 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,” the statement said. “She is not a criminal and should not be punished for her bravery.”

Fathy is the latest victim of the Egyptian authorities’ campaign against activists who speak out against the government. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has since leading the military’s 2013 overthrow of an elected but divisive president — the Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi — overseen a crackdown on dissent, jailing thousands of Islamists along with secular, pro-democracy advocates, imposing tight control of the media and rolling back freedoms won in a popular 2011 uprising.

El-Sissi says his government’s top priorities are security and overhauling the battered economy.

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