An Egyptian court Tuesday convicted a university student to four years in prison for “spreading false news”, rights groups said, in a sentence Amnesty International labelled “outrageous”.
Ahmed Samir, a master’s student at the Central European University in Vienna studying women’s reproductive rights, was arrested in February after returning to Egypt on a family visit.
Authorities have not specified the reason for his arrest but have accused him of “spreading false news” and “belonging to a terrorist organisation”.
Such accusations are frequently levelled against political and human rights activists in Egypt.
A state security court in New Cairo sentenced Samir “to four years in prison and a fine of 500 Egyptian pounds (around $30) for spreading false news”, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) said in a statement on Facebook.
The Cairo-based Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) said the sentence could not be appealed due to state of emergency legislation in force since 2017.
Earlier this month, five Egyptian and international rights groups including Amnesty International had called on Egyptian authorities to release Samir “immediately and unconditionally”.
Amnesty on Tuesday called the sentencing “outrageous” and called on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to quash the conviction.
Samir’s conviction “is based solely on social media posts criticising human rights violations in Egyptian prisons and the state’s mishandling of the pandemic, which he has, in any case, denied writing”, Amnesty’s Philip Luther said in a statement.
Sisi, Egypt’s former army chief, has overseen a broad crackdown aimed at quashing dissent, jailing journalists, lawyers, academics and activists.
AFTE says around a dozen academics are in prison over their work.