EU urges Egypt to review sentences for political activists

Ahram Online, Monday 23 Dec 2013

Sentences imposed on leading activists Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel should be reviewed on appeal, says spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton
European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton speaks with the media prior to an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers at the EU Council building in Brussels on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 (Photo: AP)

The European Union has issued a statement expressing concern at the jailing of three prominent Egyptian activists.

The sentences appear to be based on the recently enacted protest law which is widely seen as limiting excessively freedom of expression and assembly, said Sebastien Brabant, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Ashton expressed hope, he said, that "these sentences could be reviewed in an appeals process."

On Sunday, a court sentenced April 6 Youth Movement leading figures Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel, and revolutionary activist Ahmed Douma to three years in jail and a LE50,000 fine.

The trio were convicted of assaulting police officers during a demonstration outside a Cairo court where Maher was handing himself in for questioning over allegations he had organised an illegal protest. They were also convicted of organising illegal protests.

Ashton criticised the protest law on 1 December, warning it could hinder the country's transition to democracy.

The passing of the law on 24 November — nearly 10 days after a three-month state of emergency, in place since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, was lifted — has been viewed by critics as a tool for cracking down on public dissent.

However, Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi has said the law is crucial for securing citizens and protecting protesters.

Ashton also denounced the raid on the offices of the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights in which Adel was arrested.

Ashton, however, "reaffirmed the European Union's support for a sustainable democracy that meets the aspirations of the Egyptian people and its readiness to cooperate with Egyptians to see their transition succeed."

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