March 8, 2014
Egypt jails key figures of 2011 revolution
Three leading figures of Egypt's 2011 uprising have been jailed for three years eachfor their role in recent protests, as the army-backed authorities intensified a crackdown on dissent.
Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel are symbols of the protest movement that ignited the revolt against President Hosni Mubarak. Their sentences include prison labour and fines of 50,000 Egyptian pounds ($7,200) each.
As the verdict was read, the three chanted "Down, down with military rule!" from the cage where defendants stand in Egyptian courts. The session, held at a police facility on the outskirts of Cairo, was attended by several European diplomats.
The case stems from protests called in defiance of a law passed by the army-backed government in November that requires police permission for demonstrations. It was the first verdict handed down under the new law. The defendants faced charges of protesting without permission and assaulting police.
Already pressing a fierce crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood movement of deposed President Mohamed Morsi, the authorities have arrested a number of secular activists in recent weeks for breaches of the new protest law.
Critics see it as an attempt to stifle the kind of street activism commonplace since the 2011 uprising as the government proceeds with a new political transition plan. The next step is a mid-January referendum on a new constitution.
During Mubarak's 30 years in power, most protests were crushed by a powerful security apparatus that has reasserted itself since Morsi's removal.
"We are starting to be seen as enemies of the state. It is not going to be the last time," said Sally Toma, a leading activist, reacting to the verdicts. "They will try to kill everything that this revolution stood for."