Activist Sanaa Seif, and rights activist and lawyer Yara Sallam (Photo: Courtesy of Free Sanaa Facebook page)
An Egyptian appeal court on Sunday reduced the sentences of 23 pro-democracy activists to two years in jail for violating a law banning protests without a permit and assaulting security forces, a judicial source has said.
The defendants, who include activist Sanaa Seif, sister of prominent activist and blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah and rights lawyer Yara Sallam, were originally sentenced to three years last October over their role in a demonstration on 21 June against the widely criticised protest law.
The court has also fined the convicted LE10,000 (approximately $1,390) each and ordered them to be placed under police surveillance for two years after serving jail time, the source added.
Among other accusations, the defendants were charged with stirring chaos, damaging public property, assaulting policemen and using violence "with the aim of terrorising citizens."
The sentence can still be appealed before the Court of Cassation, the country's highest legal authority.
Sanaa Seif, 21, hails from a family of staunch rights campaigners, including her late father Ahmed Seif Al-Islam and brother Alaa Abdel-Fattah, one of the youth activists at the forefront of the 2011 uprising that toppled veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Abdel-Fattah himself is in jail pending retrial on a 15-year prison sentence he received for violating the protest law and assaulting an on-duty police officer.
The law, issued late last year following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, bans demonstrations without police authorisation and punishes violators with imprisonment.
Hundreds have been jailed for breaching the statute, amid an ongoing state crackdown on Morsi's Islamist backers that has extended to secular and liberal dissidents.
Eyewitnesses had said that Yara Allam, 28, who is an award-winning rights lawyer with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, did not take part in the protest, but was rounded up while walking nearby.
Amnesty International had called for the release of these activists, calling them prisoners of conscience who were arrested for defying a repressive law. The group described in a September statement the accusations against them as "baseless" and "farcical."