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23 Egyptian activists sentenced to three years in prison

23 Egyptian activists sentenced to three years in prison
Sanaa Seif, one of 23 sentenced to three years in prison for violating the protest law.
Sanaa Seif, one of 23 sentenced to three years in prison for violating the protest law.

Families of 23* defendants sentenced on Sunday to three years in prison for violating the protest law gathered outside court condemning the verdict.

A Cairo Misdemeanour court served prison sentences to activist Sanaa Seif and 22 other defendants arrested on June 21 while taking part in a march calling for the repeal of the protest law and the release of all those arrested on background of the law.

“No comment on the verdict,” said Alaa Abdel Fattah, Seif’s brother, outside court after using a religious expression referring the matter to God.

The defendants have been referred to a misdemeanour court for illegal assembly, vandalism and displaying force.

The defence team will appeal the verdict, said Mohamed Abdel Aziz, director of the Cairo-based al-Haqanya human rights centre and one of the lawyers representing the defendants.

Former interim President Adli Mansour issued the protest law on November 24 to regulate peaceful assembly. The law has long been the epicentre of wide criticism by domestic and international human rights organisations which say it violates international standards for peaceful protests.

“Keep silently watching us get jailed one by one and watching the students get killed one by one until disaster arrives at your doorsteps,” Abdel Fattah said on his personal twitter account shortly after the issuance of the verdict.

Leftist politician and former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi was quick to comment on Sunday’s verdict.

“The protest law is unjust on the humanitarian level, void on the constitutional level and stupid on the political level,” Sabahi tweeted. “It did not stop the violence neither did it achieve stability.”

Sabahi said that the youth who took part in the January 25 uprising in 2011 and the June 30 protests in 2013 are the “victims” of the protest law. He added that sustaining the law is a “crime”.

The verdict was also condemned by al-Dostour Party Spokesman Khaled Dawoud, who described it as one of the “disastrous results of the unjust protest law” in a personal tweet.

Among those sentenced is human rights defender Yara Sallam, transitional justice officer at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). Sallam was reportedly arrested with her cousin while buying water from a kiosk in Cairo’s Heliopolis neighbourhood, where the June 21 protest was held.

Sallam remained in detention and faced official charges despite the release of her cousin the next day, which causes human rights watchdog Amnesty International to believe the rights defender is being persecuted for her activism.

“The charges against Yara Sallam, who did not even participate in the protest in question, are completely farcical,” Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, had earlier said. “She has been kept in detention and put on trial because of her work as a human rights defender.”

The Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) filed on September 13 a lawsuit at the Supreme Constitutional Court, Egypt’s top court, challenging the constitutionality of articles in the law.

The legislation obliges demonstrators to inform the authorities of their intention to assemble three days prior to their scheduled events. It also gives the interior ministry the right to cancel, postpone or move protests.

Amnesty International described the law as “repressive” and called for the release of all those in detention for “defying” it.

* An earlier version of this article stated 24 defendants were sentenced to jail. The 24th defendant was a minor who has been transferred to a case on his own and is not included.

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  • karmamole

    To all those who support this ruling:

    This is the only Egypt your actions have allowed, one in which innocents are sentenced for standing up for their own rights or the rights of others. It is the same Egypt in which you support a military dictator (whether elected or not) and believe his lying supporters on TV while you ignore everything your son or your daughter tells you about what’s actually going on at universities and on the street. It is the same Egypt in which you mourn for dead soldiers while you allow the government to arrest and imprison the youth who protested against the terrorist regime you now claim to be at war with. It is the same Egypt that you’ve had for more than 60 years, and it is an Egypt that has been sinking under the weight of the rampant corruption that you have, if not participated in, then catered to. It is an Egypt in which there is no justice, in which the phrase ‘human rights’ has become a joke, in which ‘human rights activist’ has become an insult. It is an Egypt that is systematically trying to destroy the future of our youth, and crush their souls. It is the same Egypt that has made patriots who once stood in Tahrir risking their lives and their freedoms for the dream of a better country now give up in desperation at the choices you have made, and the nightmares that they’ve realized are supported by their mothers and their fathers, and by their uncles and aunts, it is an Egypt that many are now trying to escape. It is an Egypt that is abhorrent to anybody who values human life and humane values. It is an Egypt that will never stabilize because you do not achieve stability by allowing injustice and oppression. It is an Egypt which YOU are making worse every time you justify oppression for the sake of stability, every time you excuse brutality in the name of security, every time you shirk your conscience in order to support a regime that has crushed you and is now trying to crush your children. You are complicit in this crime, don’t you dare think otherwise. Those 24 activists are not alone, they join thousands who languish in the prison cells of this military dictatorship, a dictatorship that is weak when facing actual terrorism, yet armed to the teeth when confronting students at universities. You are propping up a regime that is destroying the very best Egypt has to offer, and you are doing it every single time you ignore this kind of happening, and every single time you pretend it’s not your problem. Good people are suffering, unjustly, and it is because your mind has been paralyzed by fear.You are a coward, and your children are paying the price of your cowardice.

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@AswatMasriya_En

Aswat Masriya is a Thomson Reuters Foundation-sponsored website that covers Egypt's transition to democracy. en.aswatmasriya.com

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