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Months After Presidential Pardon, Sanaa Seif Sentenced to Prison

May 4, 2016

An Egyptian court sentenced in absentia young Egyptian activist Sanaa Seif to six months imprisonment for “insulting a public official”.

According to state media Al-Ahram, Sanaa Seif was charged with insulting an employee from an “investigative body”.

In October 2014, Sanaa Seif and 22 others had been sentenced to three years in prison in October 2014 for violating the protest law. A year later, the young activist and 99 other prisoners, including journalists and activists, were pardoned by a Presidential decree coinciding with the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha.

Responding to the ruling, Sanaa Seif said she would hand herself over at Sayeda Zeinab police station. Below is a statement by Sanaa Seif which was released by Ahdaf Soeuif on Facebook:

I have just been sentenced to 6 months in prison for “insulting a public official”. I had already decided not to attend my trial. And if there was a sentence against me I would not appeal it.

I am now on my way to Sayyeda Zeinab police station to hand myself in.

I’ll try and explain how I’ve arrived at this point.

In 2011, in the events of Cabinet Street, the Army arrested me. I was held in the Parliament building and beaten there. After I was released I recognised – in a photograph – one of the officers who beat me and I filed an official report with a copy of his photo. The police department sent me to a hospital where I was examined and got a medical report. I went through their procedures for a year. My file was sent from one Prosecutor’s office to another’s until it went before a judge. There were videos from security cameras that vanished after I’d watched them in an office in the Ministry of Justice. Then my medical report was lost so we spent time looking for it in the archives. Ten months later, they asked me to go for another medical examination and get another report. The file became inactive and I lost energy.

Three years later, in trials for these same events, it was the protestors who received life sentences.

In 2014 I helped organise a protest against the Protest Law and I was arrested. I admitted “organizing” to the Prosecution because I believe that non-violent expression of opinion is a constitutional right. In the end the charge of “organizing” was dropped and I and 22 others were sentenced to prison on false charges (possession of molotov cocktails and destruction of property) – even though I had stated my actual role.

Throughout, I took the justice system seriously. Then I find a district prosecutor telling me “I don’t want to lock you up but it’s not in my hands.” And a judge asking “What are you talking about, pre-trial detention?” while I’m standing in front of him, detained before my trial.

I’ve had the experience of dealing with the system as a plaintiff and as a defendant, and now I’m required to play, again, the role of the accused, and the lawyers are required to use up their energy defending me.

Well, this time, I will not play along. I just don’t have the energy.

I am not taking this decision lightly. Being in prison isn’t easy and I know that. And going back in will be worse after I’d started seeing my brother again and after I’d started to get my career back on track. But since they insist on setting me up it’s clear there’s going to be price to be paid. So at least I’ll pay it on my terms.

To the lawyers, my father’s colleagues and students and friends: I am sorry that this time I’m asking you not to do your work, work that I really respect. I was brought up in the house of an activist lawyer and I’ve seen how seriously devoted you all are. And because I respect you, and because I respect the law, I’ll choose to spare you, and spare the law, these outrages.

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