An Egyptian court convicted human rights activist Hossam Bahgat on Monday for “spreading false news” and “insulting a government authority”. The director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights was fined 10,000 Egyptian pounds (about $640). The verdict can be appealed.
The Public Prosecution accused Bahgat of “insulting the National Elections Authority” and spreading false news and rumours through his personal accounts on Facebook and Twitter. He was critical of the parliamentary election held last year which witnessed a landslide victory for supporters of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
Bahgat’s prosecution has attracted international support for the activist and calls for the Egyptian authorities to release him. On Friday, the Chairman of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Gregory Meeks, called for the charges against Bahgat to be dropped, and for Egypt to end unfair prosecutions, arbitrary arrests, travel bans and asset freezes on all members of civil society.
In July, the US called on Egypt to stop targeting human rights activists, warning that it would take the issue into consideration in future arms sales negotiations between Washington and Cairo. Human rights organisations estimate that Egypt has detained about 60,000 political prisoners since Sisi led a military coup against democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.