Egypt releases prominent female activist

Photo: Amnesty International

Cairo: Egyptian authorities Thursday released a prominent activist who had criticised the government and decried sexual harassment after more than seven months of detention, her lawyer said.

Lawyer Doaa Moustafa said her client, Amal Fathy, was freed from a police station in the capital Cairo, more than a week after a court ordered her conditional release.

Fathy must report to a nearby police station every week and is under house arrest, allowed only to leave for medication or visiting a police station or court, Moustafa said.

Her husband, activist Mohammed Lotfi confirmed her release in a Facebook post.

Police arrested Fathy in May after she posted a video online criticising the state for deteriorating public services and not taking measures against sexual harassment.

She cited alleged harassment at the branch of a local state-owned bank. The video also shows her using profanities to describe her experience at the bank and repeatedly insult the state.

Fathy faces charges of disseminating false news and joining an outlawed group.

"Membership in an outlawed group" is Egyptian government parlance for having ties to a range of groups that it has outlawed, including the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organisation that authorities have banned and labelled a terrorist group.

Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International's North Africa campaigns director, said earlier this month when the court ordered Fathy freed that conditional release was "not enough."

"The Egyptian authorities must now drop all charges against her, quash her earlier conviction and two-year prison sentence and ensure she doesn't face any further reprisals for freely expressing her opinions," she said in a statement then.

Separately, Fathy received a suspended two-year prison sentence in September for insulting employees in a bank and using abusive language to criticize state institutions and decry sexual harassment against women.

She awaits a scheduled December 30 ruling on her appeal in that case, her lawyer said.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has overseen a crackdown on dissent, jailing thousands of Islamists and secular, pro-democracy advocates and imposing tight control on the media while rolling back freedoms won in a popular 2011 uprising.

El-Sissi says his government's top priorities are security and overhauling the battered economy.

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