CAIRO — Three Egyptian activists who helped spearhead the country’s 2011 uprising were sentenced Sunday to up to three years in prison for violating a new protest-regulation law passed by a government that itself came to power through mass demonstrations five months ago.
The sentencing appeared to confirm fears among rights advocates that Egypt’s interim government — appointed after July’s military ouster of President Mohammed Morsi — is expanding its campaign against dissidents to include non-Islamist opposition groups.
Sentenced Sunday were Ahmed Maher, Mohammed Adel, and Ahmed Douma, all well-known activists who have played key roles in the pro-democracy movement for years. Each was ordered to pay a fine of $7,400 for organizing a demonstration without first notifying authorities.
They were charged in connection with a Nov. 30 protest outside a courthouse in Cairo’s central Abdeen district. Maher, accompanied by Adel and Douma, had gone to the courthouse to turn himself in on an arrest warrant that charged him with coordinating an unauthorized rally several days earlier.
A crowd of marchers turned out at the courthouse to support Maher. Police dispersed the protest, and prosecutors charged Maher, Adel, and Douma with unlawful assembly, attacking police officers, and damaging a local cafe.
The protest law requires demonstrators to seek advance authorization from the Interior Ministry and local police stations to hold protests of 10 people or more. If authorities deny permission or do not respond, the demonstration is illegal. No demonstrations can be held overnight, near or in mosques or other religious sites, or in public squares.