Prominent Egyptian Activist Freed Days After Brother Gets Prison Time for Same Charge

Sanaa Seif, who hails from a renowned family of Egyptian activists, had been behind bars since June 2020. Her brother, a key figure in the 2011 revolt, was sentenced to five years for spreading false news

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Egyptian police officers walk by Jama'a Al-Aqsunqur, Blue Mosque, in Cairo, Egypt, in November.
Egyptian police officers walk by Jama'a Al-Aqsunqur, Blue Mosque, in Cairo, Egypt, in November.Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/ REUTERS

A prominent Egyptian human rights activist was released Thursday after serving her sentence on charges of spreading false news and insulting a police officer, her lawyer and family said.

Sanaa Seif, who hails from a renowned family of activists, had been behind bars since June 2020. She was convicted in March 2021 of broadcasting what authorities said were fake news and rumors about health conditions and the spread of the coronavirus in Egyptian prisons.

Mona Seif, her sister and also a prominent human rights advocate, posted photographs of Sanaa on social media showing her smiling and walking with friends upon her release.

Sanaa Seif after her release from prison.Credit: Mona Seif

The development comes after an Egyptian court on Monday sentenced the Seif sisters' brother, Alaa Abdel-Fattah, to five years on charges of spreading false news.

Abdel-Fattah was first sentenced in 2014 on charges of taking part in an unauthorized protest and allegedly assaulting a police officer. He was released in 2019 after serving a five-year term but was rearrested again later that year, in a crackdown that followed anti-government protests.

Sanaa Seif was arrested while she and other family members were at the public prosecutor’s office to file a complaint about an attack against them outside Cairo’s Tora prison complex. The family had been going daily to the prison, hoping to receive a letter from imprisoned Abdel-Fattah.

In a separate case in 2016, Seif was convicted of insulting a government employee and was sentenced to six months. After that, she served 15 months of a three-year sentence for demonstrating against a law banning public gatherings. She was pardoned early in that case.

The siblings' father, Ahmed Seif al-Islam, was a renowned human rights lawyer who died in 2014. Their mother, Leila Soueif, is a mathematician and a prominent advocate for academic independence. Their aunt is Ahdaf Soueif, an award-winning novelist.

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