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Sanaa Seif, a young Egyptian political activist who served as an editor and shooter on the Oscar-nominated documentary The Square, has been sentenced to three years in prison for protesting, a court in Cairo has ruled.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, The Square‘s director, Jehane Noujaim, said that Seif had been sentenced along with 20 other defendants after being in pretrial detention for more than 100 days. “They were charged with protesting the protest law,” she said.
Seif was arrested in June for demonstrating against the new anti-protest laws, which state that political gatherings must be approved by security forces. The rules came into effect in November. Amnesty International has described the rules as “Draconian” and has urged the authorities to release the activists.
In August, Seif announced that she was starting a hunger strike. Her brother, Alaa Abd El-Fattah was sentenced to 15 years in prison in June, also for violating the protest law. His retrial is due to begin this week.
“They’re lining people up and accusing them of being enemies of the state or Mossad,” said The Square producer Karim Amer in Abu Dhabi, adding that the film’s team had also been accused of being employed by foreign antigovernment forces.
The Square, which chronicles Egypt’s two recent revolutions in 2011 and 2013 through the eyes of a group of young activists, picked up awards at Sundance and won the best feature honor from the International Documentary Association. It was nominated for an Oscar at this year’s awards, becoming the first Egyptian film in history to be represented at the Academy Awards.
Offering a damning critique of the Egyptian military during and following the 2011 revolution, The Square faced controversy in its home country, where former army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi now serves as president.
Despite being released internationally and on Netflix in January, the film finally had its first official public screening in Egypt at the Ismailia International Film Festival for Documentaries and Shorts in June. “But we weren’t allowed to advertise that it was screening there,” said Noujaim.
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