Egypt sentences human rights defender to 15 years in jail over anti-government advocacy
An Egyptian court has sentenced in absentia a prominent human rights defender to 15 years in jail over his social media posts and anti-government activity abroad, according to local media.
Bahey el-Din Hassan is the director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and the chief adviser to the Egyptian Human Rights Forum. The charges he faced included "publishing false news" and "insulting the judiciary".
Hassan has been living in self-imposed exile in France for more than five years due to “government-affiliated death threats” in Cairo over his human rights work, he told Middle East Eye last year.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday condemned the charges against Hassan as "bogus" and "extremely outrageous".
"Hassan is one of the most prominent human rights defenders in Egypt and the Arab world, but the Sisi government is punishing him for his work instead of honoring him," Amr Magdi, Egypt researcher at HRW, told Middle East Eye.
Case documents mentioned a number of Hassan's critical tweets, as well as a conference he held in Paris to shed light on the human rights situation in Egypt, Magdi said.
"The Egyptian government is extremely worried about the impact of his public and private advocacy work on its image abroad," he said.
"They spend millions of dollars trying to whitewash their image in Washington and other western capitals, but their effort goes in vain when people like Hassan meet with governments and explain the reality of the situation on the ground."
Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been accused of overseeing the worst crackdown on human rights in the country's modern history.
Sisi, a former army general who came to power after ousting his democratically elected civilian predecessor Mohamed Morsi in 2013, has defended the crackdown as part of his "war against terror".
Rights groups have estimated that more than 60,000 political prisoners currently languish in Egyptian jails on politically motivated charges, while hundreds of others have died of medical negligence they suffered in custody, including the late president Morsi.