Egyptian Court Sentences 23 Activists to Prison for Protesting
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First expressed concern over today’s sentencing of 23 Egyptian activists for violating restrictive anti-protest laws. The activists, including prominent human rights lawyer Yara Sallam, were sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of approximately $1,400 each.
“Today’s verdicts are another crushing blow to civil society and basic freedoms in Egypt,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “These verdicts confirm that Egypt is in a dangerous spiral towards increasing authoritarianism. Many Egyptian human rights activists are either in prison or are fleeing the country, as the space for them to operate free from harm is being squeezed tightly shut.”
The defendants in this case were arrested on June 21 following a peaceful demonstration calling for the repeal of Egypt’s anti-protest law (Law No. 107) and the release of those detained under the law. Egypt’s restrictive anti-protest law is often used by authorities to imprison human rights defenders. The handling of this case has drawn international criticism.
“The United States needs to spell out what consequences there will be for its relationship with Egypt in the face of this dangerous crackdown, consequences beyond statements of concern. Egypt targets human rights defenders like Yara Sallam because it can do so with impunity. It’s time for that impunity to end,” added Dooley
In recent months, the Egyptian government has led a campaign to quash political dissent through excessive use of force against protesters, imprisonment of thousands of political dissidents and several journalists, and unfair trials leading to harsh sentences. The crackdown has left more than 2000 protesters dead while tens of thousands more are in prison, many detained without charge for extended periods and subjected to torture and inhumane conditions. In September of this year, President Sisi signed into law harsh new penalties targeting human rights activists and civil society groups that accept foreign funds for activities deemed to “harm the national interest.”
Human Rights First continues to urge the United States to reshape its side of the bilateral relationship with Egypt to promote a path toward stability and a human rights respecting democracy in Egypt. The organization also urges the United States to honor the pledge made by President Obama last month in New York to continue and enhance its support for independent civil society organizations, especially those seeking to promote and defend human rights and to hold the government to account.