Egypt sentences 23 pro-democracy protesters to 3 years

Two rights activists incarcerated were described by Amnesty International as ‘prisoners of conscience’

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An Egyptian court sentenced 23 pro-democracy activists on Sunday to three years in prison each for holding an unlicensed protest, after international calls to free the defendants.

The rights activists include Yara Sallam and Sanaa Seif, described by Amnesty International as “prisoners of conscience.”

The Cairo court also ordered each of the 23 defendants to pay a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds (about $1,390).

Some of the activists had supported the military’s overthrow of Islamist president Mohammad Mursi in July last year which unleashed a deadly crackdown on his Islamist supporters.

Extended crackdown

They had since turned on the new authorities as it extended a crackdown on all protests.

The verdict, one of several against secular-leaning activists in recent months, may be appealed.

The defendants were accused of holding an illegal protest on June 21 calling for the release of detainees and the annulment of a law that bans all but police-sanctioned demonstrations.

“The ruling is political, it has no legal grounding,” alleged Ahmed Ezzat, one of the defence lawyers, after judge Abdelrahman al-Zawary pronounced his verdict.