Cairo’s Criminal Court sentenced, on Wednesday, activist Sanaa Seif to one and half years in prison over charges of spreading false news over the COVID-19 pandemic in Egypt, insulting a public employee and using a social media account to commit a crime.
The incident goes back to last June, when Sanaa was arrested in front of the attorney general’s office, while she was reporting that she, her sister Mona and their mother Laila Soueif were assaulted in front of Tora Prison gate the day before.
The family were by the gate waiting to visit their brother and son, activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, when unknown women along with members of the prison guards assaulted them. Sanaa was later brought before the prosecution, which accused Sanaa of assaulting the police officer, whom Sanaa was reporting. During the trial, two secretaries of police, the witnesses, gave testimonies before the court.
Lawyer Khaled Ali demanded that the rota be presented, which would reveal that the two witnesses were not present at the time of the incident. Lawyer Ahmed Ragheb also objected to using imprisonment as a penalty for publishing news, because the constitution bans that.
The sentence against Sanaa provoked widespread outrage on social media in Egypt, and people decried it as a punitive measure against the victim. Moreover, it evokes a history of persecution against this family’s members, who are known for defending human rights, what exposed them to recurrent detention and assaults.