Cairo – An Egyptian court fined prominent human rights activist Hossam Bahgat on Monday for “insulting” the country’s electoral commission on social media, a judicial source said.
Bahgat, founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, was fined 10 000 pounds ($635) after he alleged incidents of electoral fraud during last year’s parliamentary elections, in tweets and Facebook posts.
Parliament is mostly comprised of loyalists of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and critics view the chamber as a “rubber-stamp” body.
Since Sisi became president in 2014 following the military overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi the year before, he has overseen a sweeping crackdown on dissent with estimates of 60,000 political prisoners jailed.
In July, the US State Department expressed its concern over the indictment of Bahgat, saying dissidents “should not be targeted for expressing their views peacefully”.
Bahgat was charged with “spreading false news”, a common accusation levelled against Egyptian dissidents in recent years.
The verdict can be appealed, the judicial source said.
Bahgat, who is also a journalist, is already banned from travelling and his assets have been frozen because of a separate case in which he remains indicted.
Authorities have in recent years particularly targeted the group Bahgat founded.
Three EIPR staff were jailed last year, sparking an international campaign supported by celebrities including Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson that resulted in their release.
Another EIPR researcher, Patrick Zaki, has been detained since February 2020 and faces charges of “spreading false news” after he returned to Egypt from Italy, where he was studying at Bologna University.
Last week, 46 human rights groups signed a statement calling on Egyptian authorities to drop the charges against Bahgat, describing them as “a clear reprisal”.
Picture: Getty Images