Prominent Egyptian activist Hossam Bahgat found guilty of insulting election authorities

Bahgat is the founder-director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). He has previously been targeted by successive governments for his work towards the advancement of civil liberties and human rights in Egypt

December 01, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Egyptian activist Hossam Bahgat
Hossam Bahgat. (Photo: Middle East Online)

In his trial on Monday, November 29, prominent Egyptian human rights activist Hossam Bahgat was found guilty of insulting the judicial election commission in one of his tweets last year. The misdemeanor court in capital Cairo fined him 10,000 Egyptian pounds (USD 640) after finding him guilty of insulting the election authority, spreading false news alleging electoral fraud, and using social media to commit crimes, stated the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). Bahgat is the founder and director of EIPR. Another EIPR activist, Patrick Zaki, has been detained by the Egyptian authorities since February 2020 after his return from Italy on charges of “spreading false news”.

Bahgat was slapped with the charges last year based on his tweets accusing the election commission’s chairman of allegedly mishandling the parliamentary vote. He was ordered to stand trial in July this year. He has previously been targeted by multiple Egyptian governments following the 2011 revolution against former dictator Hosni Mubarak. He has been banned from travelling out of Egypt since 2016. His personal assets were frozen by the authorities in relation to a different ongoing criminal investigation in which he and several other rights activists are accused of obtaining foreign funding by illegitimate means.

The continuing legal and institutional persecution against Bahgat based on malicious political motives of the government has been routinely criticized by human rights groups and the international community. When Bahgat was arrested and placed under detention last year before being ordered to stand trial, the US state department issued a statement condemning the developments. Just last week, Amnesty International in a statement called upon the Egyptian government to halt their “relentless persecution” of Bahgat, adding that “these endless legal proceedings look like a clear reprisal against Bahgat’s storied legacy of defending human rights.”

Egyptian authorities have drastically stepped up their repression of activists, human rights groups, political opposition and civil society for any criticism or dissent against the government’s policies or actions. The human rights situation in Egypt worsened after the military coup by former army general-turned Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in 2013 against then president Mohammed Morsi. El-Sisi’s government has presided over one of the most brutal crackdowns in the country’s recent history. The regime has arrested over 60,000 people, killed thousands of civilians through extrajudicial methods, and used the judicial system to persecute and silence government critics, dissenters and human rights and pro-democracy activists in the country.

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