An Egyptian court has jailed three prominent anti-Mubarak activists for three years for organizing a protest without authorization. They were the first to be sentenced under a new law banning unlicensed rallies.
The three leading figures of the 2011 uprising against President Hosni Mubarak were sentenced to three years in prison on Sunday for violating the highly-criticized new law.
Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel were convicted of rioting and assaulting police during an unlicensed rally against the new legislation last month. Alongside the prison sentence, the men were fined 50,000 Egyptian pounds ($7,100, 5,200 euros).
As the verdict was read the three chanted "down with the military regime," news agency MENA reported.
Maher is the founder of the April 6 youth movement, one of the groups that used social media to organize against Mubarak. He was nominated for the Novel Peace Prize in 2011. All three are considered symbols of the protest movement.
Sunday's verdict was the first under the new law banning unauthorized protests, which was introduced in November. It was also the first against non-Islamist protesters since the overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July.
Egypt's military-backed interim government say the law is designed to bring order to the streets following deadly protests against the ouster of Morsi, but rights activists warn it is an attempt to curtail dissent.
Human Rights Watch's Egypt director told news agency AFP Sunday's verdict was an "indication" of what could come in the future.
"The verdict is significant because it sits in very much with the pattern that we have seen, particularly in the past three weeks," Heba Morayef said.
"This is a standard Mubarak-era tactic to crack down on protests. The verdict is deeply problematic... they [the authorities] are particularly targeting protest leaders."
It follows the recent arrest of a number of secular activists, including prominent pro-democracy blogger, Alaa Abdel Fattah. He is in detention awaiting trial for violating the law.
ccp/jm (AFP, Reuters, dpa)