File: Security forces clash with protesters in front in downtown Cairo, Egypt, November 26, 2013 (Photo: Ahram Online)
An Egyptian criminal court sentenced 17 people to five years in prison on Thursday for involvement in illegal protests in Talaat Harb Square in downtown Cairo in January 2015, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported.
The 17 people sentenced include one juvenile, who was sentenced in absentia.
The prosecution in the case referred the defendants to court on charges of protesting without permission, illegal assembly, disrupting public transportation and assaults on police.
The verdict is a first-degree ruling and can be appealed before the Court of Cassation.
Since it was passed in late 2013, the controversial protest law has led to the detention of hundreds of youth activists, as well as secular and Islamist protesters.
The law has been widely criticised by local and international rights groups.
In December, the High Constitutional Court, Egypt's highest court, ruled that Article 10 of the law granting the interior ministry the authority to reject applications for peaceful protests is unconstitutional.
However, the court rejected legal challenges against Articles 7, 8 and 19 of the protest law.
Article 7 defines what constitutes obstruction of traffic and threats to "citizens’ interests" in relation to protests, while Article 8 outlines police notification procedures. Article 19 stipulates that violators of the law are to receive a mandatory minimum two years in prison and a fine of EGP 50,000.
According to a joint report prepared by parliament's committee on legislative and constitutional affairs and the committee on defence and national security, the government-drafted, 25-article bill amends Egypt's 2013 law on the "regulation of public assemblies, processions and peaceful protests."
The ammended bill is set to be discussed by the parliament.