CAIRO (AP) — Two Cairo courts have convicted and sentenced to five years in jail a total of 101 protesters for taking part in peaceful, anti-government demonstrations last month, officials said on Sunday.
They said the 101 were convicted of breaking a disputed 2013 law that effectively bans street protests. Of the 101, 79 were fined 100,000 pounds (about $10,000) each and 54 were convicted and sentenced in absentia.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
The sentences were passed late Saturday, hours after another Cairo court sentenced another 51 protesters to two years in jail for their part in last month’s demonstrations, which were called to protest Egypt’s decision to hand over control of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia as part of a demarcation deal.
The deal, negotiated in near total secrecy, has earned mounting criticism of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi by activists who claim the transfer was a sell-off to oil-rich Saudi Arabia, which last month announced a multibillion dollar aid package to Egypt.
El-Sissi maintains that the islands belong to the Saudis and has angrily demanded an end to public criticism of the deal.
A massive police deployment on April 25 stifled the planned demonstrations, prompting activists to stage small, flash protests in various parts of the capital. More than 1,200 arrests were made in the run-up to April 25 and on the day. Most of them have been released but nearly 300 faced formal charges and were referred to trial for breaking the protest law.
The arrests and Saturday’s sentences signaled the government’s zero tolerance for dissent. El-Sissi says he has to balance safeguarding rights with his government’s fight against a resilient insurgency by Islamic militants in Sinai and efforts to revive the economy.
He has repeatedly insisted that Egypt’s human rights record must not be judged by Western standards.
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