A prominent rights activist appealed to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday to pardon his wife, sentenced to two years in jail for posting a video denouncing sexual harassment.
“We ask the President of the Republic for pardon,” said Mohamed Lotfi, who heads the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms NGO. Former actress and model Amal Fathi was sentenced at an appeal hearing on Sunday for “spreading false news” and “inciting regime change”.
She had been arrested in May over a video she posted online, criticizing sexual harassment in Egypt and alleging that guards at a bank had sexually harassed her.
Lotfi, 37, called on Sisi to take into account that his wife is “a victim” of harassment, and is being treated for trauma and depression. “Her condition has worsened during prison,” he said.
In an interview with AFP, he said an appeal is being lodged against his wife’s sentence. Fathi is under house arrest and has to report to a police station every week. Lotfi fears his wife will be taken into full custody during her next scheduled appointment on Saturday.
Fathi said she had been harassed by a taxi driver on the same day as the alleged harassment at the bank. She recorded her video in a state of exasperation, her husband said. Sisi came to power in 2014, a year after leading the military’s overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi following mass protests against the Islamist's rule.
Rights groups say the former defense minister has since installed a repressive and authoritarian regime. Amnesty International has called Fathi’s sentence a “scandalous injustice”.
Harassment on Egypt’s streets has been a major topic of activism and campaigns. “We know that the government is trying to fight this phenomenon”, Lotfi said. “It’s not fair that a female victim of harassment is imprisoned”, he said.
Lotfi, who holds dual Egyptian-Swiss nationality, believes his own commitment to human rights work is the “true reason” behind the justice system’s treatment of his wife. “In a way, it is pressure on me so that I stop my human rights work”, he said. He added that his wife is still fighting another case, in which she is accused of “belonging to a terrorist group”.
Known for his work against forced disappearances, Lotfi recently received a prestigious Franco-German award for human rights campaigners.