A Cairo appeals court today upheld the conviction of three government critics for taking part in an "unauthorized" protest, a further sign that the Egyptian authorities are tightening the vice on freedom of expression and assembly, Amnesty International said.
The defendants, Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel, both activists with the 6 April Youth Movement, and well-known blogger Ahmed Douma, are to serve three years in prison with labour and a 50,000 Egyptian pound (US$7,185) fine. The court also ruled they should serve three years' probation following their release.
"This appeals court ruling tightens the vice on freedom of expression and assembly and is yet another sign of Egypt's growing climate of intolerance towards any legitimate criticism of the authorities," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
"Repression goes unabated in Egypt. Those who were at the forefront of the 2011 uprising are now jailed for a mere peaceful protest.
"The three men are prisoners of conscience, who should never have been put on trial. They must be released immediately and unconditionally, with their convictions quashed.
The three men are the first Egyptians to be sentenced to prison for defying the country's repressive protest law, adopted in November last year.
Amnesty International has also expressed concern over reports that security forces beat the men during their appeal hearing, with Mohamed Adel and Ahmed Douma showing marks of beatings on their hands, legs and stomach. Mohamed Adel also told his lawyers security forces beat him during his arrest and subsequent detention.
Defence lawyers told Amnesty International they will now try to challenge the judgement before the Court of Cassation, Egypt's highest court of law.