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Egypt jails female activist who called to free prisoners amid pandemic

Director Jehane Noujaim (center left) Actress Sanaa Seif (middle right) and producer Ahmed Barbary (R) attend "The Square(Al Midan)" Premiere during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival at Yarrow Hotel Theater on January 18, 2013 in Park City, Utah [Natalie Cass / Getty Images]
Director Jehane Noujaim (center left) Actress Sanaa Seif (middle right) and producer Ahmed Barbary (R) attend "The Square(Al Midan)" Premiere during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival at Yarrow Hotel Theater on January 18, 2013 in Park City, Utah [Natalie Cass / Getty Images]

An Egyptian court sentenced prominent female activist Sanaa Seif to a year and a half in prison on Wednesday for spreading false news, her sister and judicial sources said, reported Reuters.

Seif was detained in June 2019 outside the public prosecutor's office as she tried to file a complaint about the detention conditions of her brother Alaa Abdel Fattah, one of Egypt's best-known activists, their family says.

She was also among the activists who had campaigned on social media for the release of some prisoners amid fears that coronavirus would spread in prisons.

Three other members of her family were briefly detained in March 2020 for protesting over the same issue.

A Cairo criminal court convicted Seif for spreading and broadcasting false news that would cause panic, the false allegation of the spread of the coronavirus in prisons and misusing social media sites, judicial sources said.

Seif has the right to appeal the ruling within 60 days, they said.

Read: #FreeSanaa campaign demands justice ahead of film editor's verdict

In August last year over 200 actors, authors and journalists signed a statement demanding justice and freedom for Sanaa Seif and called on Egyptian authorities to release her. Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, author Phillip Pullman, and artist Anish Kapoor joined the call.

Her brother Alaa, a leading activist in the 2011 uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak, was detained in September 2019, six months after his release from a five-year prison term.

Western countries on Friday called on Egypt to end the prosecution of activists, journalists and perceived political opponents under counter-terrorism laws, and to unconditionally release them.

Egypt said it was astonished by the statement, which it called groundless.

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