An Egyptian court yesterday sentenced 15 persons to ten years in jail each for taking part in protests in late 2013 in the country’s southern province of Minya, a judicial source told the Anadolu Agency.
Fourteen of the defendants were sentenced in absentia and one was present in the court while the verdict was being pronounced.
The verdict may be appealed at a higher court.
Prosecutors accused the defendants of protesting, inciting violence, attempting to wreck public property and membership in an outlawed group, in reference to the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood.
The defendants were arrested during a protest in December 2013. Prosecutors referred them to criminal trial in May 2015 and the first trial session was held two months later.
An interim government issued the controversial protest law in November 2013, four months after then-defence chief Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi led a military coup against the country’s first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi.
In the wake of the coup, the government also banned the Muslim Brotherhood group, accused it of terrorism, and rounded up its members and sympathisers. Thousands have been behind bars in pretrial detention or facing trial for membership in the Brotherhood and over accusations such as “inciting violence” and “membership in a terrorist group”. The Brotherhood has repeatedly denied the accusations and stressed that it adheres to peaceful protests against the coup.
The protest law, which was issued in response to a wave of protests that opposed the coup and called for Morsi’s reinstatement, was described by international watchdog Human Rights Watch as “deeply restrictive” and by Amnesty International as “draconian” and “repressive”.