An Egyptian court has sentenced leading activist Alaa Abdel Fattah to 15 years in jail for violating a protest law and on other charges, his lawyer said.
Abdel Fattah, who has been out on bail since March, was arrested along with two co-defendants immediately after the ruling was issued as they were waiting to be allowed to enter the makeshift court at a Cairo police academy.
Twenty-four defendants in the same case were also convicted and sentenced to 15 years in jail in absentia.
They were found guilty on charges ranging from taking part in an illegal protest to rioting, blocking roads and assaulting policemen, judicial sources said.
Abdel Fattah, 33, became a symbol of the 2011 uprising against President Hosni Mubarak through his leading role in the protests and on social media.
The protest law passed last year gives the Interior Ministry the right to ban any meeting of more than 10 people in a public place.
Human rights issues
Wednesday’s verdicts came a day after Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International urged the newly elected President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to make Egypt’s critical situation of human rights his top priority.
In a report released on Tuesday, they described Egypt’s human rights crisis the worst in decades.
“In addition to the violence and mass arrests, the authorities have imposed extensive restrictions on freedom of association, expression, and assembly, which dramatically reverse gains made following the January 25, 2011 uprising,” the report said.
One of the authors of the report told Al Jazeera that the situation is going to get worse.
“If Egypt is not able to deliver a credible investigation into the gross human rights violations we’ve seen over the past year, the international community should step up, which should include exploring options at the Human Rights Council, even an international investigation,” said Nicholas Piachaud, a North African Campaigner for Amnesty International.
In April, an appeals court upheld three-year prison sentences for three other prominent activists, including the founder of the April 6 youth movement, Ahmed Maher, charged with violating the protest law.
The April 6 group, which was also a symbol of the anti-Mubarak uprising, has since been banned.