(Reuters) - An
Egyptian appeals court on Monday upheld the jailing of three leading
figures of the 2011 pro-democracy uprising, tightening a crackdown on
secular activists opposed to the army-backed government.
Critics see their case as an
attempt to stifle the kind of political street activism common since the
uprising that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak three years ago, as Egypt
prepares for presidential elections next month.
court handed down three-year sentences to the three liberal activists,
Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel, in December for protesting
without permission and assaulting the police.
verdict was the first under a new law that requires police permission
for demonstrations. The case stemmed from protests called in defiance of
the law. The European Union and the United States had urged Egypt to
reconsider the verdict.
leftist politician and presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabahi condemned the
sentences and urged Interim President Adly Mansour to grant the
activists a presidential pardon. The liberal al-Dostour party made the
The three men
appeared in court on Monday inside a metal cage wearing blue prison
suits and chanting: "Down, down with army rule, our country will always
They have one final chance to appeal to a higher court but analysts see little hope of the verdict being overturned.
'NAIL IN THE COFFIN'
was not expecting this sentence at all. I was certainly expecting it to
be overturned. That is very bad news," said Dostour party spokesman
"This will definitely send a very negative signal to all the young people who supported the (2011) January Revolution."
pursuing a crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood movement of deposed
president Mohamed Mursi, the army-led authorities have arrested a
number of secular activists in recent months for breaches of the new
against three of the most recognized faces of the January 25, 2011,
protests is one more nail in the coffin for Egypt's revolution," said
Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director for Middle East and North Africa
at Human Rights Watch.
"The appeals court has failed to undo the worst excesses of the government's campaign to crush dissent."
U.S. State Department said the continued imprisonment of the trio ran
counter to the Egyptian government's commitment to protect the universal
rights of all Egyptians.
the Egyptian government to exercise its constitutional authority to
commute these excessive sentences, which are not in line with the rights
guaranteed in Egypt's new constitution, Egypt's international
obligations or the government's own commitment not to return to
Mubarak-era practices," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a
briefing in Washington.
Fattah al-Sisi, the general who toppled Mursi in July following mass
protests against his rule, is expected to win next month's presidential
The former army
chief's supporters see him as a decisive figure who can bring stability.
Islamist and secular opponents say he has helped to turn Egypt back
into a police state.
forces have killed hundreds of Brotherhood members and arrested
thousands. Mursi and many other top leaders are on trial.
powers have called for democracy to be restored and for an end to human
rights abuses, but there are no signs that they intend to exert the
kind of pressure that might force change.
foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is expected in Cairo on Wednesday
for talks with Egyptian officials, the state news agency said.
(Additional reporting by Stephen Kalin and Tom Perry, and Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Writing by Yasmine Saleh; Editing by Michael Georgy, Kevin Liffey and Mohammad Zargham)