Index on Censorship and leading international human rights lawyers at Doughty Street Chambers welcome the news that Amal Fathy, detained for speaking out against sexual harassment in Egypt, is finally to be freed on probation.
Fathy was arrested in May 2018 after posting a Facebook video that expressed anger at the sexual harassment suffered by women in Egypt. Her husband Mohamed Lotfy and their young son were also held after a night-time raid on their apartment but were released after several hours. Fathy was charged with membership of a terrorist organisation and other related charges and has remained detained since then. A Cairo criminal court has now ordered her release.
Lotfy is co-founder and executive director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), which has played a key role in increasing awareness of enforced disappearances, censorship, torture and violations of freedom of expression and association in Egypt. This has led to frequent incidents of harassment, arrest and detention of staff. ECRF received an Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Campaigning Award in April 2018.
In May, Doughty Street lawyers, jointly with ECRF and Index on Censorship, lodged complaints with the United Nations rapporteurs on freedom of expression and human rights defenders regarding Fathy’s detention. In July, Doughty Street Chambers, ECRF and Index raised Fathy’s case with the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
Mohamed Lotfy of ECRF said: “Amal should be released immediately and her probation lifted so that she can enjoy the full freedom she deserves. An acquittal on 30 December is long overdue.”
Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship said: “Index on Censorship welcomes the news that Amal Fathy is to be freed. She should be released immediately to be reunited with her husband and son. Ms Fathy’s only ‘crime’ was to criticise the sexual harassment suffered by women in Egypt and the government’s failure to deal with it.”
Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, Doughty Street Chambers said: “Amal Fathy has been detained arbitrarily for seven months, in unsanitary conditions, without meaningful access to her lawyers, and away from her family and young son. We welcome the court order to release her. We now call on the Egyptian authorities to comply with that order immediately and drop all outstanding charges against her. Amal Fathy should be free, and free to speak her mind – not behind bars, not on probation, and not stopped from speaking out on vitally important issues to Egyptian society, civil liberties and women’s rights.”
Amal Fathy will next appear in court on 26 December, with another court date currently set for 30 December on the related charges of “broadcasting a video harming national security”, “posting a video inciting to overthrow the regime and spreading false rumours”, and “misusing social media”.