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Activist Amal Fathy detained after posting Facebook video criticizing Egypt’s political crackdown, sexual harassment

Activist Amal Fathy was arrested by security forces in the early hours of Friday morning, along with her husband — head of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms Mohamed Lotfy — and their three-year-old son.

Fathy was remanded in custody, and Lotfy and his son were released hours later, according to a statement by the commission.

Police stormed and searched the couple’s Maadi house at 2.30 am and confiscated their phones, prohibiting them from contacting a lawyer, the commission’s statement added. 

The reasons for Fathy’s arrest are not yet clear. Her detention, however, follows a strong campaign against her over the last couple of days, mounted by state-supporting media outlets, and followed by a wave of gender-based insults on social media, after she posted a video on her personal Facebook account on May 9. In the 12-minute video, Fathy criticizes the crackdown on political opposition in Egypt, and raises other socioeconomic issues. She also recounts an incident of sexual harassment she experienced at Bank Misr by security staff.

The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms has been defending those who have been targeted by security forces since its launch in 2014, focusing mainly on forced disappearances. In June 2015, Egyptian authorities prohibited Lotfy from traveling, along with several other prominent members of civil society who were handed travel bans.

Amnesty International published a statement on Friday about Fathy’s arrest, demanding her immediate release and arguing that her arrest is part of an attempt to silence women who speak up about sexual harassment. Amnesty added that the video Fathy released, while it contains strong language, does not contain any incitement to violence, and should be protected as part of her right to freedom of expression.

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