An Egyptian court sentenced 21 '7am movement' activists to jail on Thursday for participating in a rally in support of ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, while police also arrested a leading activist for encouraging protests.
Twenty-one women demonstrators were handed heavy jail sentences on Thursday while a high-profile activist was arrested at his home for encouraging street demonstrations, which opposition figures argue indicates that Egypt is returning to its autocratic past.
The women and girls were given jail sentences of up to 11 years for taking part in a violent protest in support of ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi. The heavy sentences, coupled with the age of the women – seven of them are under 18, the youngest is 15 – has sparked outrage in some circles.
“Many people are very angry here, a lot of people think the charges against the girls don't warrant their harsh sentences,” Kathryn Stapley reported from Cairo. “Human rights activists have pointed out that police officers who have been convicted of murder have got much lighter sentences,” she said.
Amnesty International reacted by saying they should never have been arrested and called for their immediate and unconditional release.
It said their imprisonment sends a "strong signal that there will be no limit to the authorities' efforts to crush opposition and that no one is immune from their iron fist".
The women were part of what is known as the “7am movement”, a group of activists who distributed fliers in support of Morsi. The women were arrested on October 31 during a demonstration in support of the deposed president.
Stapley said that the short time between the arrest of the girls and their sentencing on Thursday had raised suspicions that they had not been granted a fair trial. “This also raised questions as to whether the case was politically motivated,” she said.
Home arrest for high-profile activist
Meanwhile, police arrested a leading activist on Thursday for calling for protests in breach of a new law that heavily restricts demonstrations.
Alaa Abdel Fattah, a symbol of the 2011 uprising against then president Hosni Mubarak, was arrested at his home, security officials said. He had earlier issued a statement saying he planned to turn himself into the prosecutor on Saturday.
The protest law passed on Sunday has heightened fears about the future of political freedom in Egypt after the military overthrew Morsi in July.
The law gives the interior ministry the right to ban any meeting of more than 10 people in a public place.
Since Morsi's ouster, the security forces have mounted a fierce crackdown on members of his Muslim Brotherhood, killing hundreds at violent protests and arresting thousands more.
Abdel Fattah's wife wrote on her Twitter feed that the police had beaten her while arresting her husband. "They stole both our laptops and both our mobiles," she wrote.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2013-11-29