Egypt under EU’s Pressure for Jail Sentences

Written by | Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

The European Union has urged Egypt to review the credibility of jail sentences it imposed on three leading personalities of the country’s Arab Spring uprising in 2011, claiming that they originated from awry laws restraining freedom of expression. The three main political activists – Mohamed Adel, Ahmed Maher, and Ahmed Douma – are by many considered symbols of the riots and protest that ignited the very uprising that eventually ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
All three leading figures of the “April 6 Youth Movement” have been sentenced to prison labour, three years in jail, and a fine of LE 50,000. They were all convicted of assaulting police officers during protests in front of a Cairo court where Ahmed Maher was being questioned over allegations that he had organized an illegal demonstration. Douma and Adel were also convicted of the organization of illegal protests.
A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Sebastien Brabant, commented last week that the jail sentences appeared to be based on the lately enacted law on protest, which is widely considered as extensively limiting the freedoms of expression and assembly. Catherine Ashton personally criticized the protest law at the beginning of this month, and added that she hoped that these sentences would be reconsidered in an appeals process.
The initial verdict was first announced under legislation passed by the government backed up by the army in November, which also demanded police permission and supervision of demonstrations. The case, in which the defendants including the three imprisoned leaders were charged with rioting, protesting without consent, and assaulting police, originated from uprisings organized in defiance of that law.
According to critics, the protest law seems to be an attempt to muzzle the type of street revolt common since the Arab Spring of 2011 as the government is working on a new political transition plan, which includes also the upcoming referendum in mid-January 2014 on Egypt’s new constitution.

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