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Egypt: Activist Amal Fathy's husband urges Sisi to grant pardon

Mohamed Lotfi asks Egyptian president to pardon his wife, arrested in May over sexual harassment video she posted on Facebook
Fathy, 33, was released from detention last month after court order (Amnesty International)

A prominent Egyptian human rights activist has appealed to the country's president to pardon his wife, Amal Fathy, who is currently under house arrest and was recently sentenced to two years in jail.

Mohamed Lotfi, who heads the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, on Wednesday called on Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to pardon Fathy.

"We ask the president of the republic for pardon," said Lotfi, in an interview with AFP news agency.

Fathy was arrested in May after she posted a video on Facebook alleging she was sexually harassed at a bank and accusing the Egyptian authorities of failing to protect women.

In September, Fathy was given a two-year suspended jail sentence and a $560 fine on charges of spreading false news and possessing indecent material, in relation to that Facebook video.

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She was kept in jail, however, because she is awaiting trial on separate charges. The Egyptian authorities have also accused her of "membership in a terrorist group".

Fathy was let out of detention in late December, more than a week after a court ordered her conditional release.

She must report to a police station every week and is under house arrest, allowed only to leave for medication or visiting a police station or court, her lawyer Doaa Moustafa told AP news agency.

Lotfi said an appeal is being lodged against his wife's sentence.

In his message to the Egyptian president on Wednesday, he asked Sisi to take into account that Fathy is "a victim" of harassment and is being treated for trauma and depression.

"It's not fair that a female victim of harassment is imprisoned," said Lotfi, 37.

"Her condition has worsened [in] prison," he added.

Crackdown on rights defenders

Sisi came to power in 2014, a year after leading the military's overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi following mass protests against the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule.

Rights groups say the former defence minister has since installed a repressive and authoritarian government, and Amnesty International has called Fathy's sentence a "scandalous injustice".

Harassment on Egypt's streets has been a major topic of activism and campaigns.

Lotfi, who holds dual Egyptian-Swiss nationality, told AFP he 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.

Lotfi said 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.