Egypt jails key activists of 2011 uprising
April 6th movement to hold countrywide protests on anniversary of revolution
Political activists Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma (left) and Mohamed Adel (right) of the April 6th movement look on from behind bars in Abdeen court in Cairo yesterday. They were sentenced to three years in prison each in a case brought over their role in recent protests. Photograph: Reuters
Egypt’s April 6th youth movement, which led the 2011 uprising against 30-year president Hosni Mubarak, has vowed to mount protests against the military-backed interim government.
The announcement came yesterday after three celebrated revolutionaries were sentenced to three years’ hard labour, three years’ probation and a fine of $7,000 (€5,100) each on charges of organising unlicensed demonstrations and assaulting police. The movement said it would stage countrywide protests on January 25th, 2014, the third anniversary of the uprising, to “force this regime to change its course or depart”.
April 6th founder and Nobel prize nominee Ahmed Maher, associate Mohamed Adel and activist Ahmed Douma were sentenced for demonstrating with several hundred supporters outside a Cairo court where Mr Maher was set to be interrogated over allegations that he had organised an earlier illegal protest against a provision in the draft constitution allowing military trials for civilians.
Leading dissidents during the Mubarak regime, the men were the first pro-democracy activists to be tried during the crackdown targeting the Muslim Brotherhood following the ousting of Egypt’s first freely elected president, Mohamed Morsi, a Brotherhood stalwart.
The trio supported Mr Morsi’s removal but castigated the military for the mid-August dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins that left more than 900 dead.
When the sentences were announced, the men shouted “Down, down with military rule”, raising a chant often heard during the 16 months following Mr Mubarak’s fall, when Egypt was ruled by an army junta headed by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. He stepped down when Mr Morsi was sworn in in June 2012.
Both the generals and Mr Morsi have been accused by the April 6th movement of adopting counter-revolutionary policies to stymie the transition to multiparty democracy.
The trio’s conviction will deepen fears of all-out suppression of opposition from leftist and liberal quarters as well as from the Brotherhood, which has orchestrated a sustained protest campaign since Mr Morsi was toppled on July 3rd after a year in office. April 6th spokesman Khaled El-Masry was quoted by Ahram Online as saying the verdict had no legal basis.
“If this were a fair trial, they wouldn’t have spent one hour in jail,” he said, adding that the movement would appeal.
Fourteen women sentenced to 11 years for protesting aga- inst Mr Morsi’s removal were freed on appeal after a domestic and international outcry.
Human rights campaigners have criticised the November 24th enactment of a law requiring three days’ notice and authorisation from the interior ministry for protests. This took place 10 days after the expiry of a state of emergency imposed to counter Brotherhood demonstrations against the ousting of Mr Morsi.
The jailing of the three men is regarded as a reversion to the harsh practices of the Mubarak regime. Another prominent revolutionary figure, Alaa Abdel-Fattah, awaits trial over charges that he was involved with Mr Maher in staging the unlicensed protest in defiance of the law.
However, many Egyptians regard the measure as necessary to halt almost three years of unrest that has undermined security and ruined the economy.