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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 15 October 2018

Egypt jails Lebanese woman after harassment claim video

Mona Al Mazbouh was arrested in late May at Cairo airport as she was preparing to leave Egypt

Police stand guards during a recent court session in Cairo, Egypt, June 30, 2018. REUTERS
Police stand guards during a recent court session in Cairo, Egypt, June 30, 2018. REUTERS

An Egyptian court sentenced a Lebanese woman to eight years in prison over insulting Egyptians in a video she posted online, and set July 29 as the date for her appeal, state media reported.

Mona al-Mazbouh was initially handed down 11 years but the sentence was later reduced to eight, the state-run Al-Ahram news agency reported. It was unclear why the sentence was reduced. She was also fined 10,700 Egyptian pounds (around $598).

The 24-year-old was charged with "deliberately broadcasting false rumours which aim to undermine society and attack religions."

The sentence comes after she posted a 10-minute video in which she used profanities to describe her vacation in Cairo where she says she was sexually harassed. She calls Egyptians the "dirtiest people" and Egypt "the country of pimps ... of beggars."

The allegations drew a strong reaction online, with some Egyptians calling for Ms Mazbouh's arrest and lodging a complaint against her.

Ms Mazbouh later posted an apology video, saying "I definitely didn't mean to offend all Egyptians." She was arrested in May before departing from Cairo.

Initially, she was sentenced to 11 years in prison, but that was amended within hours to eight years, the judicial source said.

An appeal court will now hear the case on July 29, according to Ms Mazbouh's lawyer, Emad Kamal.

"Of course, God willing, the verdict will change. With all due respect to the judiciary, this is a severe ruling. It is in the context of the law, but the court was applying the maximum penalty," he said.

Mr Kamal said a surgery Ms Mazbouh underwent in 2006 to remove a brain clot has impaired her ability to control anger, a condition documented in a medical report he submitted to the court. She also suffers from depression, he said.

In June, Egypt's parliament initially approved a bill placing social media accounts, blogs and websites with more than 5,000 followers under the supervision of the country's top media regulatory body, which can take measures that include blocking them if they are found to be disseminating false news, inciting violence or violating the law.

A final reading of the bill has yet to take place before it's ratified by the president.