CAIRO: Egypt on Monday sentenced Alaa Abdel Fattah, a leading figure in the 2011 revolution, to five years in jail, with two others receiving four years, his sister and a judicial source said.
A computer programmer, blogger and high-profile activist who mobilised youths in the uprising that unseated autocrat Hosni Mubarak, Abdel Fattah had been in pre-trial detention since September 2019.
Abdel Fattah, his lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer and blogger Mohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim were convicted of “broadcasting false news” in their trial in Cairo.
“Alaa was sentenced to five years, Baqer four years and Mohamed Oxygen four years,” his sister Mona Seif said on Twitter.
“The judge was too cowardly to even inform us,” she said after the sentencing at the State Security Misdemeanours Court in the capital.
A judicial source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the verdict and sentencing to AFP.
Rulings in the court cannot be appealed. They require final approval by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
The Committee to Protect Journalists decried Monday’s ruling as “unacceptable”.
The verdict “demonstrates the lengths to which authorities are willing to go to punish these journalists for their work”, said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Coordinator.
CPJ considers bloggers as engaging in journalism.
“Both journalists have already spent several years in prison on bogus charges, and authorities must release them immediately and unconditionally,” Mansour added.
Pre-trial detention can last two years under Egyptian law, but in practice detainees are often kept waiting behind bars longer.
Abdel Fattah was arrested in the wake of rare night-time protests prompted by an exiled construction contractor calling for the removal of Sisi on claims of corruption.
Baqer and Ibrahim were also detained in a massive crackdown.
Abdel Fattah has spent most of the past decade in jail at Tora, one of the country’s most notorious prisons, after previous convictions.
His mother, mathematics professor Laila Soueif, wrote in a New York Times opinion piece published on Saturday that “the outside world, once so inspired by the Egyptian revolutionaries, is looking away.
“His crime is that, like millions of young people in Egypt and far beyond, he believed another world was possible. And he dared to try to make it happen.”
Prolific writer Abdel Fattah’s critically acclaimed essay collection “You Have Not Yet Been Defeated” was published in October.