The European Union urged Egypt to reconsider jail sentences handed down to three leading figures of the country's 2011 uprising, saying they stemmed from flawed laws curbing freedom of expression.
The three men – Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel – are seen as symbols of the protest movement that ignited the revolt that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Their sentences include prison labor and fines.
Sebastien Brabant, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said in a statement on Monday that the sentences “appear to be based on the recently enacted protest law which is widely seen as limiting excessively freedom of expression and assembly”.
Ashton expressed hope, he said, that “these sentences could be reviewed in an appeals process”.
The verdict was the first under a law passed by Cairo's army-backed government in November that requires police permission for demonstrations. The case, in which the defendants were charged with protesting without permission and assaulting police, stemmed from protests called in defiance of that law.
Critics see the protest law as an attempt to stifle the kind of street activism common since the 2011 uprising as the government proceeds with a new political transition plan. The next step is a mid-January referendum on a new constitution.