[Fourteen women jailed in Egypt over a protest in support of ousted President Mohammed Morsi have been freed after an appeal court ruling]
By Elham Asaad Buaras
Fourteen women jailed in Egypt over a protest in support of ousted President Mohammed Morsi have been freed after an appeal court ruling.
Seven juveniles jailed over the protest last month in Alexandria have also been released, on Their 11-year sentence was cut to one year, suspended.
Human rights groups had attacked the convictions – on charges of belonging to a terrorist group, obstructing traffic, sabotage and using force.
Reducing the sentences on December 7, Judge Sharif Hafiz nevertheless convicted the women of three counts relating to violence, a conviction they will appeal.
The sentencing on November 27 came shortly after the interim military-backed regime ordered the arrest of two of the liberal activists linked with the revolution against President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
The women arrested on October 31 were members of the 7am Club which staged protests before school started in support of ousted Egypt’s first democratically elected leader.
Among them were seven girls aged 15 and 16, who were sentenced to prison terms until they turn 18. The rest – most aged 18 to 22 – were sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Activists were quick to point out the draconian sentence mirrors the jail term handed to two policemen for beating to death Khaled Said, 28, whose bloodied photo helped end Mubarak’s 30 year stranglehold on the country – while a police officer who was caught shooting protesters in the eyes with birdshot in late 2011 was sentenced to just 3 years.
The regime reinstated laws restricting public protests and has reasserted its right to try civilians in military courts.
Meanwhile, the Public Prosecutor’s order to detain Ahmed Maher, whose April 6 Movement coordinated the 2011 Tahrir Square demonstrations, and Alaa Abdulfatah, a blogger, suggests it may turn against liberal oppositionists more fiercely. Youth leader Ahmad Duma was arrested on December 3, for participating in a protest, the third pro-democracy activist to be detained within a week.
The move followed an illegal rally against the new protest law which restricts political demonstrations in violation of international standards.
The law was issued by the interim President, Adly Mansour last month. It grants security officials discretion to ban any protest on very vague grounds, allows police officers to forcibly disperse any protest even if a single protester throws a stone, and sets heavy prison sentences for vague offenses such as attempting to “influence the course of justice.”
The Cabinet has defended the law on the grounds that rallies are unpopular with residents whose lives were being disrupted. Critics point out that the army cited the scale of popular protests against Morsi at the end of June as justification for moving against him.
Human rights groups rejected the draft law before it was enacted by Mansour.
Human Rights Watch reviewed the draft of the Law on the Right to Public Meetings, Processions and Peaceful Demonstrations and ruled it fell far short of Egypt’s obligation to respect freedom of assembly under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
19 Egyptian organisations said in a joint statement, “The draft law seeks to criminalise all forms of peaceful assembly, including demonstrations and public meetings, and gives the state free hand to disperse peaceful gatherings by use of force.”
The army’s claim that it had the backing masses for its removal of Morsi was contradicted by a Zogby Research poll which found that 51 per cent of those surveyed were opposed to the coup, with 46 in favour.
Controversially the EU pledged €90 million to Egypt despite continued human rights violations.