Egyptian court sentences activist Alaa Abdel Fattah to five years in prison for ‘spreading fake news’

A prominent activist in the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship, Alaa has been in jail for most of the decade since for opposing the crackdown on dissent carried out by the regime of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi 

December 22, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Egyptian activists trial
Mohamed al-Baqer and Alaa Abd El Fattah (R). (Photo: Mada Masr)

Prominent rights activist Alaa Abdel Fattah was sentenced to five years in prison by an Egyptian court on Monday, December 20. He was found guilty of “spreading fake news and undermining national security” by the State Security Misdemeanors Court. 

Two other activists, blogger Mohamed Ibrahim and lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer, with similar charges were given four-year prison sentences each. 

Alaa’s sister, activist Mona Seif, tweeted about the verdict which was later confirmed by his lawyers and other human right activists on social media. She claimed that Alaa spoke during the final hearing and raised the issue of mistreatment and denial of essential services inside jail. 

The verdict of the court is final and no appeal can be filed against it. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will give the final approval on the verdict.

The court’s verdict has been criticized by human rights activists and groups in Egypt as an assault on the right to freedom of speech and expression.

Several activists as well as Alaa’s lawyers highlighted violations of legal procedure during the court proceedings, with some even claiming that the defense lawyers were not allowed by the court to present their case and that the final sentence was read by a bureaucrat in the absence of the judge. The judge had earlier disallowed the presence of family members in the court during the reading of the verdict. 

A decade of persecution

Alaa Abdel Fattah, 38, was a prominent figure in the 2011 popular uprising against Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. He has been arrested on several occasions by the al-Sisi government for his vocal opposition to its policies. He was arrested in the early days after the fall of Mubarak and has since mostly been in jail following the Sisi-led coup in 2013. 

He was arrested in 2013 and sentenced to five years in prison in 2015 for “protesting illegally”. He was released from prison in March 2019 after completing his sentence but was soon re-arrested in September and later charged with “joining an illegal organization” and spreading fake news through social media.  

Alaa was ordered to be released from jail by a local court briefly in early 2020. However, before he could be released the state filed an appeal and rearrested him on February 20.  

Ever since coming to power in the 2013 coup, the Sisi government has unleashed massive repression of political activists and human rights groups opposed to it. Though the emergency imposed in 2013 was lifted last month, the crackdown on political dissent has continued. The regime has banned trade union action as well as major opposition party Muslim Brotherhood, even calling it a terrorist organization. Popular public actions such as protests are also disallowed. Thousands of activists and political leaders have been arrested and detained under an array of flimsy charges.