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Egyptian activist arrested for video condemning sexual harassment

gyptian women hold signs during a protest against sexual harassment in Cairo [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 May, 2018

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Amal Fathy criticised the Egyptian government for failing to protect women and not addressing the widespread issue of sexual harassment.

Egyptian police late Friday detained activist Amal Fathy after she posted a video criticising the government's failure to address sexual harassment in the country.

Amnesty International called Fathy's arrest a "new low in Egypt's crackdown on freedom of expression". The activist is a member of the now banned April 6 youth movement that played a major role in organising the 2011 uprising. 

A security source told Reuters that Fathy was detained after a complaint had been filed that she insulted the Egyptian state. 

The video in question, which Fathy posted on May 9, spoke about the widespread issue of sexual harassment in Egypt. She also criticised the government for not protecting women.

"It is a dark day when the Egyptian authorities are more concerned with silencing a woman who speaks out about sexual harassment than taking steps to address the issue," said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.

Police arrived at Fathy's home at 2.30am on Friday. Both Fathy and her husband, human rights lawyer Mohamed Lotfy, were detained and taken to a police station in the Cairo suburb of Maadi. 

Lotfy was released hours later but Fathy remains in custody.

A prosecutor later ordered she be detained for 15 days for questioning on charges of incitement to overthrow the ruling system and misusing social media.

Egyptian media, which is largely pro-government, criticised Fathy for using profanity in her 12-minute video. "She is accused and wanted for arrest in relation to complaints accusing her of insulting the Egyptian state, by publishing a posting that contained swearing and defamation against Egypt," a security source said.

Rights groups have long complained of entrenched sexism in Egypt. The Arab world's most populous country has one of the world's highest rates of sexual harassment and female genital mutilation.

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