Hossam Bahgat: Egyptian rights activist found guilty over tweet

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Court fines Hosam Bahgat for ‘insulting’ the country’s Election Commission authority on social media.

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A court has found a prominent Egyptian human rights activist guilty of insulting the judicial election commission in a tweet posted last year after a national vote.

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

The activist was ordered to stand trial in July on charges of insulting Egypt’s election authority, spreading false news alleging election fraud, and using social media to commit crimes.

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

The Egyptian government has cracked down on dissent in recent years on a massive scale, imprisoning 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 traveling abroad and his personal assets have been confiscated in connection with a separate, decade-long criminal investigation. In that investigation, he and several other activists have been accused of receiving foreign funds.

Another EIPR researcher, Patrick Zaki, has been detained since February 2020 and faces charges of “spreading false news” after returning from Italy to Egypt, where he was studying at the University of Bologna.

Last week, human rights group Amnesty International urged Egyptian authorities to stop their “continued persecution” of Bahagat.

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

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

He was convicted of conspiring to commit crimes with an outlaw group with reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was banned by Egypt as a “terrorist organization”.

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

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