Sunday, December 22, 2013

Egyptian Activists Maher, Adel and Douma Sentenced to Three Years in Prison

Egypt's Maher, Adel and Douma sentenced to 3 years in jail

Ahram Online , Sunday 22 Dec 2013

April 6 Youth movement founder Ahmed Maher, member Mohamed Adel and prominent activist Ahmed Douma are handed a three-year prison sentence and a LE50,000 fine each

An Egyptian misdemeanour court sentenced on Sunday three leading Egyptian activists to three years in jail and an LE50,000 fine each for charges including organising illegal protests, judicial sources told Ahram Online.

Founder of April 6 Youth movement Ahmed Maher, member Mohamed Adel and long-time activist Ahmed Douma stand charged of allegedly assaulting police officers during a demonstration outside a Cairo court where Maher was handing himself in for questioning over allegations he had organised an illegal protest.

The activists, known for being at the forefront of Egypt's 2011 uprising that toppled former autocrat Hosni Mubarak, are accused of joining a protest without seeking a police permit as required by a new disputed protest law.

As the sentences were pronounced, they chanted "down, down with military rule" from the dock at the courtroom in central Cairo.

The case has fuelled fears of an expanding crackdown on opposition by the country's interim authorities, beyond a sustained campaign on Islamists since the army's July ouster of president Mohamed Morsi amid massive protests against his troubled one-year rule.

The defendants, who will additionally be placed on a three-year probation period after serving their terms, can still appeal the ruling.

A harsh sentence handed down to 14 Islamist women supporting toppled president Morsi last month had been reduced to a one-year suspended sentence for each, allowing the defendants to walk free after the ruling sparked public outcry.

April 6 spokesman Khaled El-Masry has argued the verdict has no legal basis and that it was a clear "revenge against the 25 January 2011 Revolution."

"If this were a fair trial, they wouldn't have spent one hour in jail," he told Ahram Online.

El-Masry vowed the movement would take all necessary legal action to appeal the ruling, saying the group will carry on protesting without seeking prior permits from authorities in defiance of the controversial protest law.

The passing of the protest law on 24 November -- nearly 10 days after a three-month state of emergency, in place since the July ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, was lifted -- had been viewed by rights activists as an alternative tool for crackdown on public dissent.

It requires protest organisers to seek authorisation three days ahead of any planned demonstration. Protests can be banned if deemed a threat to national security.

"We do not acknowledge this law. It's a failure; if you turn the television on you will see people protesting everywhere," he concluded.

Member of the left-wing Popular Current movement Emad Hamdi expressed his astonishment at the verdict, highlighting his total support of the three prominent revolutionary figures.

"When I see someone like Ahmed Shafiq from the Mubarak regime pronounced innocent in many of the allegations levelled against him, while those three revolutionary figures receive a sentence of three years in prison, then something is definitely wrong," said Hamdi.

Prominent activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, another symbol of the 2011 revolt, has also been detained over allegations he organised, along with Maher, an illegal protest late in November. He is still facing trial.

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