Hossam Bahgat: Egyptian rights activist found guilty over tweet

Court fines Hossam Bahgat for ‘insulting’ the country’s electoral commission authority on social media.

Hossam Bahgat
Since 2016, Bahgat has been banned from traveling abroad and has had his personal assets frozen in connection with a separate, decade-long criminal investigation [File: Lilian Wagdy/Reuters]

A court has found a leading Egyptian human rights activist guilty of insulting a judicial election commission in a tweet he posted last year following a national vote.

The misdemeanour court in the capital, Cairo, fined Hossam Bahgat 10,000 Egyptian pounds (about $636) on Monday, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), a rights group founded by Bahgat.

The activist was ordered in July to stand trial on charges he insulted Egypt’s election authority, spread false news alleging electoral fraud, and used social media to commit crimes.

His indictment was based on a 2020 tweet in which he blamed the election authority’s chairman for allegedly mishandling the parliamentary vote held that year. The United States Department of State condemned Bahgat’s trial and detention at the time.

The Egyptian government has in recent years waged a wide-scale crackdown on dissent, jailing thousands of people, including activists involved in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.

Since 2016, Bahgat has been banned from travelling abroad and has had his personal assets frozen in connection with a separate, decade-long criminal investigation. In that probe, he and many other activists have been accused of receiving foreign funding.

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, human rights group Amnesty International urged Egyptian authorities to halt their “relentless persecution” of Bahgat.

“These endless legal proceedings look like a clear reprisal against Bahgat’s storied legacy of defending human rights,” it said in a statement.

Bahgat’s conviction came less than two weeks after a state security emergency court sentenced Zyad el-Elaimy, a prominent human rights lawyer and former lawmaker, to five years in prison.

He had been convicted of conspiring to commit crimes with an outlawed group, a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt has banned as a “terrorist organisation”.

The same court also sentenced journalists Hossam Monis and Hisham Fouad to four years in prison on the same charges.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies