GENEVA – Geneva Council for Rights and liberties (GCRL) strongly condemns the prison sentence issued against the Egyptian activist Sana Seif, on charges of spreading “false news”.
The South Cairo Criminal Court convicted Egyptian human rights activist Sanaa Seif on charges of spreading “false news” related to the COVID-19 pandemic”, “misusing social media” and insulting a police officer on duty and sentenced her to one and a half years in prison.
According to Mona Seif, the sister of Sanaa, the verdict was delivered without the activist present in the courtroom, indicating that later they saw her in the deportation car and informed her of the verdict.
The Egyptian Public Prosecution claimed that Saif spread false news on her Facebook account, in which she claimed the outbreak of the Coronavirus inside Egyptian prisons amid an absence of preventive measures, in addition to a verbal altercation with a police officer.
Seif was arrested while she was at the public prosecutor’s office to file a complaint about a violent attack against her.
On 23 June 2020, officers in plainclothes kidnapped Seif in front of the Public Prosecutor’s office while she was trying to lodge a complaint with the prosecutor in relation to an attack by a group of women, most likely paid by the prison administration, that targeted her and her mother, academic Laila Soueif in front of the Tora prisons area, where her brother is being held. The assault took place when the activist and her mother attempted to stage a sit-in in front of the prison gates after they were barred from visiting Abdel-Fattah or even communicating with him.
Sanaa Seif was then kidnapped in a microbus without license plates, and transported to the headquarters of the Supreme State Security Prosecution, where she faced an investigation into multiple charges according to an investigation memorandum prepared by the National Security Apparatus. The prosecution then ordered her pre-trial detention. Two months after her detention, the case was referred to the Criminal Court and the proceedings of the trial began on 12 September 2020.
Authorities arrested her brother, Alaa Abdel-Fattah, in September 2019, just six months after his release after serving a five-year prison sentence. Alaa Abdel Fattah is one of the most prominent activists of the January 25, 2011 revolution that toppled former President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak.
While the Egyptian authorities ignored the investigation request submitted by Sana and her family, they imprisoned her on false charges and exposed her to a trial that lacked standards of justice.
Geneva Council denounces this verdict, considering it as part of the grave human rights violations committed by the Egyptian authorities, including the suppression of freedom of opinion and expression, detention, and arbitrary arrest.
The conviction comes about a week after a joint statement from 31 countries calls on Egypt to end the prosecution of activists, journalists, and those whom it considers political opponents under anti-terrorism laws, and urges their unconditional release.
GCRL believes that unlawful trials and arbitrary detentions are nothing but political decisions that are wrapped in a formal legal framework, as part of a systematic process of prosecution against activists, dissidents, journalists, and human rights defenders to silence critical voices addressing serious human rights violations in Egypt, which have intensified over the past years.