Attorney says Egyptian activist to return to jail any time

CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian activist expects to return to prison "at any time" after an appeals court upheld a two-year sentence against her for posting a video online in which she criticized the government and decried sexual harassment, her attorney said Tuesday.

Lawyer Doaa Moustafa said the Misdemeanor Court of Appeals in Cairo's Maadi suburb, on Sunday upheld Amal Fathy's sentence for insulting employees in a bank and using abusive language to criticize state institutions and decry sexual harassment against women.

Fathy had been sentenced in September, but her sentence was suspended on appeal after she paid 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($560).

However, she was not released on house arrest until Dec. 27 pending an investigation into separate charges.

Now, she expects to be taken into custody "at any time," following the court's Sunday ruling, Moustafa said.

Moustafa said Fathy can still appeal her original two-year sentence before the Court of Cassation, Egypt's final recourse for appeals in criminal cases.

Rights group Amnesty International decried Sunday's court ruling, saying it was an "outrageous case of injustice."

"The fact that a survivor of sexual harassment is being punished with a two-year prison sentence simply for speaking out about her experience is utterly disgraceful. This verdict makes a mockery of justice and should be a stain on the conscience of the Egyptian authorities," said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International's North Africa director, in a statement Sunday.

Bounaim added: "The timing of the verdict is particularly cruel, coming only days after Amal was reunited with her loved ones."

Fathy was released last week pending an investigation into charges including disseminating false news, misuse of social media networks to spread material that could hurt security and the public interest and joining an outlawed group.

"Membership in an outlawed group" is Egyptian government parlance for having ties to a range of groups that it has outlawed, including the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization authorities have banned, labeling it a terrorist group.

Under terms of her house arrest, Fathy must report to a nearby police station weekly and is allowed to leave only to pick up medication or visit a police station or court.

Police arrested Fathy in May after she posted a 12-minute video online criticizing the state for deteriorating public services and not taking measures against sexual harassment. She said she was harassed at a local branch of a state-owned bank. The video also shows her using profanities to describe her experience at the bank and repeatedly insulting the state.

Fathy is a former activist in the pro-democracy April 6 Movement, which was at the forefront of the 2011 the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.

Egyptian authorities have waged a campaign against activists who speak out against the government.

Since leading the military's 2013 overthrow of an elected but divisive president — the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi — President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has overseen a crackdown on dissent. Authorities have jailed thousands of Islamists along with secular, pro-democracy advocates, imposing tight controls over the media and rolling back freedoms won in a popular 2011 uprising.

El-Sissi says his government's top priorities are security and overhauling the battered economy.