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Activist detained after posting video critical of Egyptian government

Amal Fathy has been held over complaint that she insulted Egyptian state
Sisi supporters say his tough security measures are needed to keep country stable (Reuters)
By Reuters

Egyptian police on Friday detained an activist after she posted a video on social media criticising the government for failing to protect women from sexual harassment and over worsening living conditions, Amnesty International said.

The rights group said the arrest of Amal Fathy, a member of the now-banned April 6 youth movement was a "new low in Egypt's crackdown on freedom of expression". The movement played an important role in the 2011 mass protests that forced president Hosni Mubarak out of office.

Egyptian police could not immediately be reached for comment, but a security source said Fathy had been detained over a complaint that she had insulted the Egyptian state through an offensive social media posting.

Human rights groups have repeatedly criticised Egypt for its crackdown on human rights defenders, saying conditions in the country have deteriorated further under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Sisi came to power in 2013 after the army overthrew president Mohamed Morsi following protests against his rule.

Amnesty International said that in the video posted to Facebook on 9 May, Fathy spoke about the prevalence of sexual harassment in Egypt and criticised the government for its failure to protect women, as well as for the deterioration of human rights, socioeconomic conditions and public services.

"It is a dark day when the Egyptian authorities are more concerned with silencing a woman who speaks out about sexual harassment than taking steps to address the issue,” said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.

Sisi's supporters say his tough security and economic measures are needed to keep the country stable as it recovers from political chaos and tackles grave economic challenges and an Islamist insurgency.

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Amnesty said Fathy was detained at her home in a pre-dawn raid on Friday, together with her husband, Mohamed Lotfy, a human rights lawyer. Both were taken to a police station in Maadi in southern Cairo.

Lotfy was freed some three hours later, but Fathy was kept in custody to allow a prosecutor to examine her case.

The prosecutor later ordered her detained for 15 days for questioning on charges of incitement to overthrow the ruling system, publishing lies and misusing social media, according to a lawyer at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, where her husband works.

Egyptian media had earlier slammed Fathy, saying she had used "foul language" in the 12-minute recording in which she expressed anger at poor public services at a local bank, heavy traffic, sexual harassment by a local taxi driver and a general deterioration in living conditions.

An Egyptian security source said: "She is accused and wanted for arrest in relation to complaints accusing her of insulting the Egyptian state, by publishing a posting that contained swearing and defamation against Egypt."

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