Al Jazeera video with Ms. Sahar Aziz, a member of the Egyptian American Rule of Law Association.







Egypt public dismay as 21 women are given 11-year prison sentences, far harsher than those of policemen accused of beating to death and assaulting protesters.


21 women jailed in Egypt under terrorism charges

Some of the 21 women behind bars in an Alexandria courtroom awaiting their sentences Photo: AMIRA MURTADA/AP


By Richard Spencer, Cairo -  27 Nov 2013


A group of 21 women, seven of whom were minors, were sentenced to jail and juvenile detention terms of 11 years on Wednesday for staging a protest outside a school in Egypt.

They were handed down shortly after the interim military-backed regime made the highly symbolic decision to order the arrest of two of the liberal protest leaders most closely associated with the revolution against President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The women arrested last month in Alexandria were supporters of Mr Morsi and members of the "7am Club" which staged protests before school started. Images of the defendants, many of them teenage girls, sitting in the dock in white prison uniforms and hijabs were circulated on social media.

Their jail terms were compared to the seven years handed down to two Alexandria policemen accused of beating to death Khaled Said, a young businessman whose bloodied image and tribute Facebook page became the revolutionaries' greatest rallying points in 2011. The policemen are currently bailed pending appeal.

Another police officer who was caught in the act of shooting protesters in the eyes with birdshot in late 2011 was sentenced to just three years.

The sentences of the minors have to be reviewed. They will be transferred to adult prison on reaching the age of 18.

Since it overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi in July, the regime has claimed to be ruling in the spirt of the 2011 revolution. However, this week it 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 was the most prominent organisation involved in coordinating the 2011 Tahrir Square demonstrations, and Alaa Abdulfatah, a prominent blogger, suggests that having imprisoned large sections of the Brotherhood leadership it may turn against liberal oppositionists more fiercely.

The move followed an illegal rally against the new protest law on Tuesday.

By Wednesday night, fresh crowds were gathering in central Cairo. "We are right back where we were in 2011, and will just have to start again from scratch," said Mohammed Wagieh, 20.

Mr Wagieh, a protest veteran, has been detained once for 20 days in 2011 and on another occasion shot in the leg with live ammunition.

"The fear barrier is now broken," he said. "In the beginning I would have been afraid but now that I have been shot once and arrested once I'm not afraid at all."

The cabinet have defended the protest 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 Mr Morsi at the end of June as justification for moving against him.

The movement that organised those protests, Tamarod, has up until now been among the army's staunchest backers, but at least one leading figure came out against the new law this week.

The army's claim that it had the backing of an overwhelming majority of the Egyptian population for its removal of Mr Morsi was contradicted, meanwhile, by a poll by the Zogby Research organisation saying it was opposed by 51 per cent of those surveyed, with 46 in favour.

The poll showed backing for Gen Abdulfatah al-Sisi, the defence minister and Egypt's most powerful man, at 46 per cent, compared to 44 per cent for Mr Morsi, an indication of the striking division in Egyptian society over the role of political Islam.