UPDATED: Appeal verdict for 23 Egyptian activists, including Sanaa Seif, 28 December

Ahram Online, Sunday 9 Nov 2014

Activists were arrested in June for allegedly holding an illegal protest, which has drawn condemnation from rights groups

From left to right: activist Sanaa Seif, rights activist and lawyer Yara Sallam along with three other defendants, appear in prison garb ahead of one of their trial hearings (Photo: Courtesy of Free Sanaa Facebook page)

The appeal case of 23 Egyptian activists – including Sanaa Seif, sister of prominent activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah – will be decided on 28 December, a Cairo court decided on Sunday.

Last month the defendants were sentenced to three years in prison on charges of holding an illegal and violent protest, a decision that has since drawn both local and international attention.

The activists will remain in detention until the December hearing.

In addition to Seif, the defendants also include Yara Sallam, a 28-year-old lawyer with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

Seif, 22, has been on hunger strike for over two months to protest her detention and the controversial protest law under which she and hundreds of others have been rounded up this year, says her family.

Sunday's hearing was the first session in the appeals trial.

The activists, arrested in June, were convicted of holding a protest without a permit, as per the protest law – a sentence that Human Rights Watch described as the government "trampling on the rights of its citizens."

The defendants were also accused of vandalism and stirring chaos during a demonstration near the presidential palace in Cairo.

Amnesty International has called for their release, saying the accusations against them are "baseless" and "farcical" and describing them as prisoners of conscience.

Media reports have circulated that the defendants could get a presidential pardon following the appeal verdict next month.

Hundreds of youth activists have been arrested for breaching the protest law which bans all but police-sanctioned protests and punishes violators with imprisonment.

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