"Regular criminals receive leniency, not Mohannad," Abdallah Khalil, Hassani's lawyer, said as the verdict was announced at the Palace of Justice.

Hassani last month received the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, named after the first head of Amnesty International, for his work in defending Syrian political prisoners and the rule of law.

As the verdict was announced, the packed courtroom erupted in standing ovation in support of Hassani, who was in a cage with suspects who were awaiting sentencing for public indecency and armed robbery.

Many of those who applauded were former political prisoners who spent long terms for "weakening national morale".