The international human rights group Amnesty International on Monday condemned an Egyptian court for giving prison terms to 15 Muslim Brotherhood members, saying it was a blow to freedom of expression.
"Amnesty International condemns the verdict, considers the 15 men to be prisoners of conscience and calls for their immediate and unconditional release," the London-based human rights group said in a statement.
Egypt's high military court on Sunday condemned the 15 to between three and five years in prison for reviving the outlawed Brotherhood, while five others were acquitted of the same charges.
"This trial before a military court fell short of international standards for fair trial," Amnesty said in a statement received here.
"Amnesty International has consistently urged the Egyptian authorities to put an end to the trial of civilians before military courts, which violates some of the most fundamental requirements of international law," it said.
These include "the right to be tried before an independent and impartial court, and the right to appeal to a higher court," it said.
Former member of parliament Mukhtar Nuh, who got three years in jail, said the sentences were "punishment" for the Brotherhood's success in parliamentary elections earlier this month during which they won 17 of the 454 seats.
The condemned were found guilty of belonging to an illegal group with the aim of "disturbing the social peace" as well as trying to "manipulate" trade unions and "instigate antagonism to the policies of the government."
The presiding judge at the court in Huckstep military base, around 30 kilometers (19 miles) north of Cairo, said the convicted had also tried to enrol new members among students and workers.
Despite its illegal status, the Brotherhood, which wants an Islamic state in Egypt, now holds the largest block of opposition seats in parliament -- CAIRO (AFP)
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