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Egypt: Female Tourist Convicted of Spreading False Rumors That Damage Country’s Reputation

(Sept. 12, 2018) In July 2018, the Cairo Misdemeanor Court found a Lebanese female tourist, Mona el-Mazbouh, guilty of deliberately spreading false rumors against Egypt that damage the country’s reputation. The court had initially sentenced the defendant to 11 years in prison before reducing the sentence later on the same day to eight years of imprisonment. (El-Sayed Gamal El-Din, Egypt’s Court Sentences Lebanese Tourist to 8 Years in Jail for Insulting Egyptians in Viral Video, AL-AHRAM (July 7, 2018).)

Facts of the Case

After posting a video clip on her Facebook page complaining about being sexually harassed in the streets of Egypt, Mazbouh was arrested at Cairo airport while leaving the country. In her clip, she called Egypt a lowly, dirty country; Egyptian men pimps; and women prostitutes. She alleged that taxi drivers and young men had sexually harassed her in the streets of Cairo and claimed that her money and belongings had been stolen. (Lebanese Woman Sentenced to Eight Years for “Insulting” Egypt, AL JAZEERA (July 8, 2018).)

Mazbouh was charged with spreading false rumors harming the reputation of the country and insulting the Egyptian people. Her defense attorney used a plea of insanity in her defense, claiming that in 2006 his client underwent surgery to remove a blood clot located in her brain, which impairs her ability to control her anger. (Jason Lemon, Tourist Gets Eight-Year Prison Sentence After Calling Egypt “Son of a B**** Country,” NEWSWEEK (July 8, 2018).) On September 9, 2018, the Appellate Misdemeanors Court approved Mazbouh’s appeal and repealed the decision rendered by the First Instance Court. However, it ordered that she be deported immediately and pay a fine of 10,700 Egyptian pounds (about US$598). (Egypt to Free Lebanese Tourist Sentenced to 8 Years for Insulting Country, TIMES OF ISRAEL (Sept. 9, 2018).)

Applicable Law

Article 80(d) of Egypt’s Penal Code states that whoever deliberately spreads false information or rumors abroad about the internal conditions of the country that might weaken the country’s financial credibility or harm the country’s national interests is punishable by six months to five years’ imprisonment and a fine. (Law No. 58 of 1937 on the Penal Code, Manshurat website (in Arabic).)

Article 308 of the Code punishes any individuals who commit the act of insult, slander, cursing, or attacking the dignity and reputation of others with a term of imprisonment. The provision does not specify the period of imprisonment. However, article 302 of the Code grants the judge personal discretion in setting the penalty and period of imprisonment for an offense if the provision does not determine such a period. (Id.)

Appeals Process

The original decision against Mazbouh was issued by the Cairo Misdemeanor Court of First Instance. Under article 402 of the Law of Criminal Procedure, a defendant sentenced to prison in a misdemeanor case has the right to file an appeal before the Misdemeanor Court of Appeal within 10 days from the date the court of first instance rendered its decision. (Law of Criminal Procedure No. 150 of 1950 and Its Amendments, Ministry of Justice website (in Arabic).