Egypt jails secular activists, Ahmed Maher, others

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Three prominent Egyptian activists from the 2011 uprising that led to the fall of Hosni Mubarak have been sentenced to three years in jail.

Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel were found guilty of organising a recent unauthorised protest.

The three are key members of the 6 April Youth Movement that led protests to remove long-time President Mubarak.

They were arrested after protesting in November over a new law that restricts demonstrations.

The protesters had complained that the law in effect replaced a recently expired state of emergency, and was stricter than the measures in place during the rule of Hosni Mubarak.

The court in Cairo found them guilty of holding a demonstration without authorisation and attacking police officers.

State-run television said the men had been sentenced to three years’ hard labour. They have also been ordered to pay a $7,000 (£4,000) fine each.

Controversial

As the verdict was read out, the courtroom erupted with chants of “Down, down with military rule! We are in a state, not in a military camp”, Reuters news agency reports.

The three pro-democracy campaigners are the first to be jailed under the controversial new law, which states that public gatherings of more than 10 people must be authorised.

The military-installed government has defended the law, saying it is not intended to limit the right to demonstrate but rather to “protect the rights of protesters”.

However, there is deepening concern in Egypt about the growing crackdown on dissent, the BBC’s Orla Guerin reports from Cairo.

Initially Islamists – angry that the Muslim Brotherhood-backed government of Mohammed Morsi was ousted by the military in the summer – were the main targets, our correspondent says. Thousands have been detained.

But recently dozens of liberal activists have been rounded up, she adds.

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