A Cairo criminal court has ordered that Egyptian activist Amal Fathy, who was arrested on 11 May after posting a video criticising sexual harassment in Egypt, be released.
Rachael Jolley, editor of Index on Censorship magazine, said: “No one should face arbitrary detention for freely expressing their opinions, in this case about how she felt about being sexually harassed. These charges have never made sense. While we welcome the order to release Amal, she must now actually be freed and all charges against her dropped.”
Fathy stood accused of “belonging to a terrorist group”, “using a website to promote ideas calling for terrorist acts”, and “intentionally disseminating false news that could harm public security and interest”.
During her appeal session on 25 November, Fathy told the judge: “I am afraid to go out to streets alone, every time I walk in the street alone someone harasses me. Last time, my son was going to be kidnapped from my arms by a motorcycle rider in Mohandiseen area. I am afraid to get out of my house, but I had to get out that day.”
Fathy took a taxi to the bank and was sexually assaulted by the driver. A crowd gathered, but let the man go. “I was in a shock and tried to understand what just has happened,” she told the judge.
A police officer showed up at the scene. “I looked at him, he was opening his trousers’ zipper and saying to me come here and I will make you feel comfortable. I experienced another shock and started to shout and scream,” Fathy said. “I felt powerless and subjugated and that’s what I said in the video. I never felt safe as a woman in my country, and this is not the first time that this happens to me.”
Fathy’s husband Mohamed Lotfy said of the ruling: “I am delighted to inform you that today a Cairo Criminal court has accepted Amal Fathy’s appeal against her preventive detention and ordered her release on probation (in case 621 of 2018 state security prosecution). She should be released within the next few days and check in a couple of times every week at a police station. On 26 December she will appear in front of another Cairo Criminal court to (most probably) extend her period of probation in the same case. On 30 December, the Maadi Appeals Misdemeanor court will issue its verdict in the other case (case 7991 of 2018 Maadi Misdemeanors). Maadi Misdemeanor court gave her a 2 years prison sentence and a fine and bail to suspend the sentence until the appeals court issues its verdict. The bail and fine were paid and we are now awaiting the final verdict by the appeals court on 30 December.”
Doughty Street Chambers — along with ECRF and Index on Censorship — have worked together on this case by lodging complaints with the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and the protection of human rights defenders. Additionally, they had an ongoing appeal against Egypt with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which was being considered.