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Egypt's president increases penalty for divulging state secrets

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Budapest, Hungary, on October 12, 2021. [ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images]
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Budapest, Hungary, on October 12, 2021. [ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images]

Egypt's president has ratified a law with amendments on divulging state secrets, which carries a fine of 5,000 to 50,000 Egyptian pounds ($238-2,380) and between six months and five years in prison.

According to the state-run Al-Ahram, violators are people who "obtain by illegal means the country's defence secrets and/or reveal these secrets."

Most famously, the late President Mohamed Morsi was accused and tried of passing state secrets to Iran, allegedly by emailing militant groups there with classified national security reports.

At the time, Chief Prosecutor Tamer El-Firgani said that Morsi, his aides, and other senior Brotherhood members had "handed over secrets to foreign countries, among them national defence secrets, and handed over a number of security reports to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in order to destabilise the country's security and stability."

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Morsi was also accused of leaking state secrets to Qatar and the Doha-based Al Jazeera.

Around the same time former director of news at Al Jazeera, Ibrahim Helal, was sentenced to death in absentia for passing state secrets to Qatar in what was dismissed as a sham trial.

Egypt has been widely condemned for its use of legislation to crack down on the political opposition whilst international organisations have been accused of whitewashing these abuses.

At the beginning of November, three human rights organisations wrote an open letter to the UNDP administrator accusing it of including "false and misleading" claims in its September report.

Among its criticisms were Egypt's "draconian counter-terrorism legislative framework." In particular, the letter singled out the law on terrorist entities and the anti-cybercrime law.

These laws have been used systematically by the Egyptian government to criminalise dissent and block access to fair trials.

Under Egypt's sweeping anti-terror laws Egyptians have been forcibly disappeared, tortured and prevented from peaceful assembly and other acts of free speech.

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