Egyptian lawyer jailed for 10 years for Facebook post

Amnesty International denounced the sentence as ‘harsh’ (AFP)

An Egyptian court sentenced a lawyer to 10 years in jail for insulting the president and “inciting terrorism” in a Facebook post, a judicial official said on Thursday.

The court in the coastal city of Alexandria also sentenced the defendant, Mohammed Ramadan, to five years’ house arrest and an internet ban for the same period, which he would serve after his jail sentence, the official said.

The judicial ruling barring Ramadan from using the internet is the first of its kind in Egypt, according to al-Ahram news website.

The lawyer was unable to make it to his trial because of medical issues, according to Amnesty International. The judge rejected demands to postpone the case and sentenced him in absentia.

Ramadan’s attorney, Mohammed Hafez, slammed what he called a “harsh” ruling, which he said was intended as “a message for all those who criticise the regime”.

Ramadan was arrested in December and detained for two days after allegedly insulting President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in a Facebook post. The defendant has described evidence in the trial as “fabricated”.

Amnesty International on Thursday condemned the sentence.

“It is utterly shocking that the Egyptian authorities have imposed such a heavy sentence against someone who was exercising his right to freedom of expression,” said the rights group’s Najia Bounaim.

She added that social media posts should never be a crime, and people should never be jailed for their opinions, even if their views are considered offensive by others.

Ramadan was sentenced according to the controversial 2015 anti-terrorism law, which has been denounced by rights groups.

The law “increases authorities’ power to impose heavy sentences, including the death penalty, for crimes under a definition of terrorism that is so broadly worded it could encompass civil disobedience,” Human Rights Watch said in 2015.