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US condemns 'harsh' Egyptian sentences

The American administration yesterday condemned sentences of three to five years handed down by an Egyptian court against activists, a US spokeswoman said.

In her daily press briefing, spokeswoman of the US Secretary of State Jen Psaki said: “The United States is deeply troubled by the new harsh sentences of three or five years in prison issued yesterday against 20 Egyptian activists, including Alaa Abd El-Fattah.”

According to Egyptian sources, Abd El-Fattah and the other activists were arrested for organising an unauthorised protest.

“We urge defendants to pursue all legal avenues to contest this verdict, including the right to appeal,” Psaki said. “As a matter of principle, the United States believes that a country’s long-term stability is strengthened by protecting the right of its citizens to peacefully express dissent.”

Psaki described the sentences as having a “chilling effect on key freedoms of expression and assembly”.

She said: “We encourage Egypt’s leadership to quickly complete its review of the demonstrations law and all court verdicts issued under it and to release an amended version that will enable full freedom of expression and association.”

According to Egyptian law, both the defendants as well as the public prosecutor have the right to appeal against the sentences within 60 days.

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