US 'troubled' by jailing of Egyptian activists

Ahram Online , Tuesday 8 Apr 2014

State department urges Egypt to commute jail terms handed to three prominent activists, says they are not in line with Egypt's constitution and international obligations

The US state department has criticised the jail sentences imposed on three of Egypt's leading activists.

Ahmed Maher, Mohammed Adel and Ahmed Douma were prominent symbols of the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak.

In December, they were sentenced to three years in prison and fined LE50,000 for protesting without permission and assaulting police officers.

An appeal court upheld the sentences on Monday.

State department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Washington was "deeply troubled" by the conviction of "three peaceful, pro-democracy activists."

"Their continued imprisonment under a law that severely restricts the universal right to peaceful assembly and expression runs counter the Egyptian government’s commitment to fostering an open electoral environment and a transition process that protects the universal rights of all Egyptians," Harf told a regular press briefing.

Harf urged the Egyptian government to alleviate the "excessive sentences," saying they fly in the face of rights guaranteed in the country's new constitution and international obligations, and the government's promises not to revert to the Mubarak-era practices.

The case sparked anxiety over the government's diminishing tolerance of dissent and a widening crackdown that has gone beyond Islamists to target secular and liberal-minded activists.

An ongoing clampdown on Islamists has seen hundreds killed in street violence and thousands jailed since the ouster of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in July 2013.

The spokesperson also reiterated Washington's "deep concerns" over the continued detention and trial of three Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt.

"We remain deeply concerned about the restrictions of freedom of expression in Egypt, including the targeting of Egyptian and foreign journalists simply for expressing their views," Harf said.

Three journalists working for the Doha-based network, including an Australian, have been in custody since late December over charges of airing false news and aiding or joining a terrorist organisation -- identified by authorities as the Muslim Brotherhood.

Harf urged the Egyptian government to drop the charges against the detained journalists and free them.

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