Egypt: 3 Anti-Mubarak Activists Given Prison Terms

Egyptian court gives jail sentences to three activists who spearheaded the 2011 uprising.

Elad Benari ,

Protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square in February
Protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square in February

An Egyptian court on Sunday sentenced three activists who spearheaded the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak to three years in jail for organizing an unlicensed protest, AFP reported.

It was the first such verdict against non-Islamist protesters since the overthrow of president Mohammed Morsi on July 3 and was seen by rights groups as part of a widening crackdown on demonstrations by military-installed authorities.

Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel were also convicted of rioting and assaulting security forces during an unauthorized protest last month, and were fined 50,000 Egyptian pounds ($7,100) each, judicial sources said, according to AFP.

The three activists chanted "down with the military regime," as the court gave its verdict, official news agency MENA reported.

Maher is the founder of the April 6 youth movement that led the revolt against Mubarak. All three defendants were leading dissidents under Mubarak, but they also supported the military's overthrow of Morsi, whom they accused of betraying the 2011 "revolution".

Maher and Douma were arrested after Maher's supporters allegedly scuffled with police outside a Cairo court on November 30, when Maher handed himself in for questioning on suspicion he had organized an illegal protest.

Adel was absent from the first hearing on December 8 but was captured this week in a midnight police raid on a non-governmental organization in Cairo, the report said.

They were found guilty of violating a disputed law enacted last month that requires police authorization for protests, less than three years after Mubarak was toppled by massive demonstrations.

Another prominent pro-democracy activist, Alaa Abdel Fattah, has also been arrested for allegedly taking part in a violent and illegal protest. The date for his trial has yet to be determined.

The new protest law has angered many secular and liberal activists who saw the military-installed government as a lesser evil than Morsi.

Human Rights Watch's Egypt director said Sunday's verdict was an "indication" of what could come in the future.

"The verdict is significant because it sits in very much with the pattern that we have seen, particularly in the past three weeks," Heba Morayef told AFP.

"This is a standard Mubarak era tactic to crack down on protests ... they (the authorities) are particularly targeting protest leaders."

More than 1,000 people, mainly Morsi supporters, have been killed since July 3 when he was ousted and authorities have rounded up some 2,000 Islamists, including most of the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Morsi is a member.

As for Morsi himself, the local prosecution said Saturday he would be facing a third trial, this time for a prison break and the murder of officers during the 2011 uprising.

132 others will stand trial with Morsi, including some 70 members of Hamas and Hezbollah, who are accused of collaborating with Morsi to carry out the prison break during the first few days of the revolt against Mubarak, killing policemen and helping thousands of inmates escape.