Egypt extends jail terms for prominent activists
Egypt was brought in November in front of the UN’s top human rights body for a litany of rights abuses, including its crackdown, mass arrests and unfair trials targeting mainly Mursi supporters, journalists and activists, described as “unprecedented in recent history.” (AFP/File)
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An Egyptian court sentenced leading political activist and blogger Ahmed Douma to three years in prison for "insulting court judges," an Anadolu news agency correspondent who attended the session reported on Tuesday.
Douma was also ordered to pay a fine of 10,000 Egyptian Pound (roughly $1400) after the court convicted him of “insulting” the judges during another court session for a the trial in which he is facing an array of violence-related charges.
Douma – who was allowed to step out of the defendant's dock to defend himself – accused the judges of "threatening" his attorneys by taking "illegal disciplinary measures" against them.
According to Reuters, Douma accused Judge Mohammed Nagi Shehata during Tuesday’s hearing of posting comments on Facebook criticizing Egypt's opposition.
The judge slammed the accusation as “an insult” to the judicial system.
Douma and 268 others are accused of staging “riots” outside central Cairo's cabinet headquarters and assaulting policemen during a sit-in back in December 2011 against a decision by Egypt's then-ruling military council to appoint as prime minister Kamal al-Ganzouri, who had served in this position under ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Around 15 people were killed and hundreds injured during clashes between the Egyptian forces and protesters that day.
In April, an Egyptian court upheld three-year prison sentences for Douma and two other prominent activists, including the founder of the April 6 movement, Ahmed Maher, for violating a controversial law restricting protests.
April 6 movement, banned since April this year, also took part of mass protests against Islamist then-president Mohammed Mursi, who was toppled by the army in July. However, the group turned on the military-installed regime when authorities violently cracked down on dissidents.
Three leading members of April 6 – Ahmed Maher, Mohammed Adel and Ahmed Douma – were sentenced to three years in prison in December 2013 on charges that included protesting illegally. Their appeals were rejected in April.
Maher, Douma and Adel were charged with organizing an unauthorized and violent protest in November, days after the passage of the law.
The Protest Law (107 of 2013) “allows security forces to use firearms against peaceful protestors” if they do not have an authorization.
In late October, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approved a military decree, similar to Mubarak’s martial law, to expand military power under the title of “ensuring stability,” that categorizes state institutions as military facilities and considers attacks against these facilities as a crime against the armed forces.
Ending martial law throughout the country, which gives the authorities wide-ranging policing powers, was one of the demands of the popular uprisings, but the decrees eroded hopes among liberals that Egypt's second uprising would finish the job begun with Mubarak's ouster in 2011.
The sentencing of the three secular activists in December last year, part of a broad coalition of groups that supported Mursi's ouster, raised concerns at the time of a return to Mubarak-era practices.
Last week, an Egyptian court dismissed charges against Mubarak for ordering security forces to kill protesters during the 2011 uprising.
That verdict, and others handed down to Mubarak-era figures, has led some to conclude that the old regime that existed before either revolution is back all but in name.
Authorities banned association to the Muslim Brotherhood following Mursi’s ouster and launched a heavy crackdown on its members, leaving at least 1,400 dead and 15,000 jailed, including hundreds sentenced to death for allegedly taking part in deadly riots in August 2013.
Egypt was brought in November in front of the UN’s top human rights body for a litany of rights abuses, including its crackdown, mass arrests and unfair trials targeting mainly Mursi supporters, journalists and activists, described as “unprecedented in recent history.”
Besides the heavy crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters, many of the leading secular activists behind the 2011 uprising have also found themselves on the wrong side of the new political leadership, getting locked up for taking part in peaceful demonstrations following the recent ban on unlicensed protests.
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