23 Activists Sentenced To 3 Years In Prison For Protesting Against The Anti-Protest Law

An Egyptian court sentenced 23 young activists to three years in jail on Sunday for violating a law that forbids protesting without a permit.

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On Sunday, 26 October, a Cairo Misdemeanour court sentenced 23 activists to three years in prison for violating Egypt's anti-protest law, despite calls from Amnesty International to free them

In this photo dated 13 September 2014, female activists appearing in Cairo court during trial for violating the anti-protest law

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The defendants were sentenced on Sunday for their part in a peaceful demonstration in June near the presidential palace in Cairo, which called for the annulment of a new anti-protest law that severely restricted the right to demonstrate.

They were arrested while protesting the detention of Alaa Abdel Fattah, a political blogger, and other activists held in jail

Sanaa Seif (wearing glasses) celebrates in September as her brother Alaa was released on bail

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Sanna Seif's brother, the prominent blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah, was released on bail in September while he appeals against a 15-year jail term for violating the same protest law and assaulting a policeman.

Alaa Abdel-Fattah, who was waiting for the ruling outside the courtroom, declined to comment on the verdict.

Prominent blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah who was jailed for violating the protest law and subsequently released, and his sister Sanaa Seif who is among the 23 newly sentenced

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Among the 23 jailed activists are Yara Sallam and Sanaa Seif - prominent civil rights campaigners. They have been described by Amnesty International as "prisoners of conscience."

Sanaa Seif, one of 23 sentenced to three years in prison for violating the protest law.

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The defendants include activist Sanaa Seif, sister of prominent activist and blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah, rights activist and lawyer Yara Sallam, photojournalist Abdel-Rahman Mohamed of Al-Badil news website and photographer Rania El-Sheikh. The convicted have also been ordered to be placed under police surveillance for three years after serving jail time.

Sunday's verdict, which can be appealed, comes at a time when Egypt is swept by nationalist sentiments following a dramatic surge in attacks blamed on Islamic militants on troops and security forces in the Sinai Peninsula while witnessing a smear campaign targeting many of the secular pro-democracy campaigners behind the 2011 uprising.

Amnesty International had called for the release of these activists, saying the accusations against them are "baseless" and "farcical" and calling them prisoners of conscience who were arrested for defying a repressive law.

Among other accusations the court charged the activists with stirring chaos, illegal assembly, vandalism and possessing arms or fireworks, reported Ahram Online, an English-language news site

Defense team lawyers Ragya Omran and Ali Abbas, have stated their intent to appeal. "This is a politicised sentence. There isn't any evidence against the defendants," Abbas said after the verdict was announced, adding that the controversial protest law must be revoked.

The controversial anti-protest law, which came into effect last year, requires organisers to seek several separate permissions to hold a demonstration involving more than 10 people

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There have been increasing complaints about restrictions on civil liberties since President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi came to power last year. The protest law requires special permits from the authorities for any protest involving more than 10 people.

Along with a decree allowing the endless extension of pre-trial custody, it has contributed to more than 41,000 people being arrested.

The law has been widely condemned as repressive, says the BBC's Orla Guerin in Cairo, and the verdict comes at a time when human rights activists in Egypt feel increasingly under threat as restrictions tighten.

Earlier this year, Egypt court confirmed death sentences for 183 out of 529 Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood supporters


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