An Egyptian court on Tuesday turned down an appeal by three well-known activists facing three years in prison after being convicted of organizing an unauthorized protest and assaulting security personnel.
Ahmed Maher, founder of the April 6 Youth Movement, fellow member Mohammed Adel and longtime activist Ahmed Douma were sentenced in December 2013 and have already spent a year in prison. They also were fined about $7,000 each and face probation for three years after serving their time.
The protest law, which was passed by the interim government after the July 2013 ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, stipulates that demonstrations must be authorized by the police in advance. Failing to secure approval can result in imprisonment.
The legislation, which has been heavily criticized by free speech advocates, has been used to jail numerous protesters.
Maher, Adel and Douma were convicted of assaulting security personnel during an unauthorized demonstration outside a Cairo court that took place as Maher was turning himself in for questioning over his participation in an earlier unauthorized protest.
Commenting on the rejection of the appeal, defense lawyer Tarek Awadi said a petition to reconsider the decision might be submitted after reviewing the court’s reasoning to reject their plea, which has yet to be issued by the court.
This month, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi reportedly said during a visit to the United Arab Emirates that the government was preparing a list of jailed youths to review their legal status for possible release. The government hasn’t announced any decisions in the cases so far.
Speaking in September at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, President Obama called for the release of Maher, among many political prisoners around the world.
“We stand in solidarity with those who are detained at this very moment … in Egypt, Ahmed Maher … and so many others,” Obama said. “They deserve to be free.”
Maher and Adel were leading members of the April 6 Youth Movement, which was instrumental in instigating protests that drove longtime leader Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011. Douma is known for his criticism of both Mubarak and Morsi, being particularly vocal during the latter’s one-year tenure as president.
Tarek is a special correspondent.