CAIRO—A woman has been sentenced in Egypt to two years in prison for allegedly spreading fake news after she posted a video on Facebook decrying her experience of sexual harassment in the country.
The sentencing of actress Amal Fathy comes as Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi has given free rein to the country’s police and judiciary to clamp down on women who complain of sexual assault and harassment and women’s activist groups. The crackdown on women and feminist organizations is part of a broader government assault on civil society, dissidents, and anyone perceived as tarnishing the country’s image.
Ms. Fathy was arrested in a raid on her home in May after she published a video on her personal Facebook page where she talked about her experience of sexual harassment in a Cairo bank.
Cairo’s Maadi Misdemeanor Court sentenced Ms. Fathy to a year in prison on a charge of publishing what it called “fake news” with the intent of toppling the Egyptian regime, and to a second year in prison for possession of “indecent material,” a reference to the video itself. She was also fined 10,000 Egyptian pounds (about $560).
“To me, this is a clearance toward harassers that they can freely harass women,” said Mohamed Lotfy, Ms. Fathy’s husband.
“The message to women or victims of harassment is, ‘Shut up your mouth or we will jail you,” said Mr. Lotfy, who works as a human rights defender, speaking outside the courthouse.
Ms. Fathy is expected to appeal her sentence.
A second woman, a Lebanese tourist named Mona Mazbouh, was arrested in June after complaining of about sexual harassment during a visit to Egypt. She was initially sentenced in July to eight years in prison on charges of spreading rumors that could “undermine society” and defaming religion. She was freed after that sentence was overturned earlier in September.
The arrests contributed to what Egyptian women have described as a chilling effect on public complaints of sexual harassment.
Women’s rights advocates and specialists working with survivors of sexual trauma say they have faced detention and questioning by security forces over their work.
President Sisi vowed to end sexual assault after a woman was attacked by a crowd of men celebrating his inauguration in 2014. A widely spread video shows a woman wearing only a black shirt, surrounded by a group of men who appear to be ripping off her clothes and beating her. She has enormous bruises on the lower half of her body, which is completely naked. At the end of the two-minute video she is carried, bloody and bruised, to apparent safety in a vehicle. The video went viral on Facebook and Twitter, prompting anguished debate on the sites of activists against sexual harassment and violence in Egypt.
(Vice Video about Sexual harassment in Egypt – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZD70uTQDJ1g )
(Egyptian Dictator Sisi brings flowers to woman beaten and raped in the street by Sisi supporters)
State institutions have denounced sexual harassment but many Egyptian women say they don’t feel comfortable reporting cases of assault to police, who are mostly Muslim men.