Egypt's rights groups condemn harsh jail sentences for Abdel-Fattah, 24 others

Ahram Online , Thursday 12 Jun 2014

Prominent activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah was sentenced to 15 years in jail and fined LE100,000 on Wednesday for holding an illegal protest

Alaa Abd El-Fattah
Alaa Abd El-Fattah (Photo: Al-Ahram)

Several Egyptian rights groups are to convene a press conference on Thursday to condemn the harsh jail sentence handed down a day earlier to Alaa Abdel-Fattah, a prominent activist of the 2011 uprising, along with two dozen others.

Abdel-Fattah, an outspoken blogger and icon of the popular revolt that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak, was sentenced on Wednesday to 15 years in jail over staging an unauthorised protest and attacking a policeman.

The court gave similar sentences to 24 other co-defendants on charges ranging from arranging an illegal protest to rioting and assaulting policemen, judicial sources said.

The convictions stem from a protest Abdel-Fattah and the other defendants participated in last November to denounce military trials for civilians. The gathering was deemed illegal due to a recently-passed protest law banning all demonstrations not pre-approved by authorities.

Wednesday's sentence was the harshest yet against youth activists who spearheaded the revolt that ended Mubarak's 30-year rule. It came three days after former army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi was sworn-in as president.

Thursday's press conference, which will take place at the Journalists' Syndicate in downtown Cairo, aims to "expose the legal and rights errors committed against political detainees," according to the event's Facebook page.

Seven rights and freedoms groups and organisations will take part, including the El-Nadim Centre for the Management and Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression.

Since Morsi's removal last July, the government has waged a fierce crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood group and its Islamic sympathisers as well as the secular-minded opposition.

Amnesty International slammed the recent sentences against Abdel-Fattah and the other defendants as being "politically motivated" and "an outrageous travesty of justice".

"Protesting peacefully is not a crime. If held solely for taking part in a protest, the activists must be released immediately and unconditionally," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa deputy director.

Abdel-Fattah and two co-defendants were arrested immediately after Wednesday's ruling, which was pronounced in absentia.

Three other prominent activists who were at the forefront of the 2011 uprising – Ahmed Maher, Mohamed Adel and Ahmed Doumah – are currently serving three-year sentences for their part in the same November protest.

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