Sanaa Seif: Egyptian human rights activist sentenced to 18 months for criticising Covid-19 response

An Egyptian court convicted a human rights activist for spreading false news and insulting a police officer, and sentenced her to 18 months in prison.

Sanaa Seif was arrested in June last year, accused by prosecutors of “broadcasting fake news and rumours” about the country’s health crisis and the spread of the novel coronavirus in prisons.

Seif, who has been in custody since her arrest, and has denied the accusations.

She was also convicted of insulting a police officer on Facebook, her lawyer Hesham Ramada said. He said they would appeal the Cairo Criminal Court ruling to a higher court.

The verdict was delivered by a chief judge on Wednesday in Seif’s absence, her sister Mona Seif, also an activist, said in a series of tweets. “They didn’t bring Sanaa to the court hall or into the cage,” she added.

Amnesty International denounced the “bogus charges” against Seif and called the ruling a “travesty of justice”.

“Today’s verdict is yet another crushing blow for the right to freedom of expression in Egypt. The Egyptian authorities have yet again demonstrated their unrelenting intent to punish any criticism of their dismal human rights record,” said Amna Guellali, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, in a statement.

Egyptian authorities deny any criticism saying detentions are in line with the law and the country’s courts operate independently.

Seif’s sentencing elicited angry reactions on social media with many activists and supporters calling for her release.

This is not the first verdict against Seif.

In 2016, she was sentenced to six months in prison after being convicted of insulting a government employee while performing his duties.

She also served 15 months of a three-year sentence for demonstrating against a law banning public gatherings and was pardoned early.