Egyptian rights activist Sanaa Seif jailed for ‘spreading false news’


Egyptian political activist Sanaa Seif has been sentenced by a court to 18 months in prison on Wednesday after finding her guilty for “broadcasting fake news and rumours” after she accused prison authorities of mishandling COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons.

Amnesty International said she had been convicted “on bogus charges stemming purely from her peaceful criticism”.

Ms. Seif, 27, was detained on June 23 outside the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Cairo while she was trying to report a physical assault the day before, according to Amnesty International.

Ms. Seif belongs to one of Egypt‘s most well-known family of activists. She is the daughter of the late human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif al-Islam and the Cairo University professor and veteran activist Laila Soueif.

Her brother is Alaa Abdel Fattah, an influential blogger and activist who has been imprisoned since September 2019 while Seif herself had already been jailed in connection with two other cases since 2014.

Prosecutors subsequently accused Ms. Seif of disseminating “false news on the deterioration of the country’s health situation, and the spread of the coronavirus in prisons”, as well as “misusing social media” and insulting a police officer.

Human Rights Watch documented several suspected outbreaks at prisons and police stations between last March and July, during which time it believes at least 14 prisoners died of COVID-19 complications.

On Wednesday, Mona Seif said her sister had been convicted and sentenced to one-and-a-half years in prison.

“Sisi’s Egypt is a nightmare. He is intent on wasting their lives and health in prison #FreeSanaa #FreeAlaa,” she wrote on Facebook.

President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has overseen what human rights groups say is an unprecedented crackdown on dissent since leading the military’s overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, in 2013 following protests against his rule.

Last week, the US and 30 other countries issued a joint declaration expressing deep concern about the human rights situation in Egypt.

It highlighted “restrictions on freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly, the constrained space for civil society and political opposition, and the application of terrorism legislation against peaceful critics”.

The Egyptian foreign ministry said it completely rejected the statement, which it said was astonishing and included “claims based on inaccurate information”. (Source: BBC)