CAIRO—An Egyptian court sentenced three prominent activists charged with joining a terrorist group and spreading false news to up to five years in prison, defying international pressure to release them in a case that has drawn scrutiny of the country’s human-rights record.
A state security court in Cairo on Monday sentenced political dissident
to five years in prison, according to his family and state media. Rights lawyer
were sentenced to four years each on the same charges.
The family of Mr. Abdel-Fattah, a leading activist in the 2011 revolution that toppled Egypt’s former President
said that he didn’t receive a trial and that they were denied rights to a copy of the case file, access to a lawyer and to make defense arguments.
The head of Egypt’s state information service didn’t respond to a request for comment. The government has said it doesn’t comment on decisions by the country’s courts, which it maintains are independent.
The three activists have been in prison since September 2019, following a clampdown in which authorities detained thousands to break up rare protests seeking the removal of President
Abdel Fattah Al Sisi.
The three weren’t involved in the protests at the time, according to the activists, their families and human-rights groups.
Mr. Abdel-Fattah and many other activists reported being tortured by security forces while in detention. The Interior Ministry has repeatedly denied the allegations of torture.
The verdict is the latest in a series of cases where local and international rights groups have accused the Sisi government of clamping down on human rights. Tens of thousands of people have been jailed in a government crackdown on political opponents since the 2013 military coup that brought Mr. Sisi to power, according to human-rights groups. Activists, journalists and human-rights workers have spent years in prisons without charge under Egypt’s system of pretrial detention. The government has denied wrongdoing.
Egypt’s human-rights record has been a source of friction between Cairo and the West. The Biden administration, which has sought to make human rights and democracy a touchstone of its foreign policy, withheld $130 million in military aid to Egypt in September over human-rights issues. Washington continues to work with Cairo on thorny regional security problems and other areas.
In October, Mr. Sisi announced the end of a nationwide state of emergency that had been in force since major terrorist attacks targeted Egyptian churches in 2017.
Human-rights groups say the government has nevertheless continued to target political opponents and human-rights defenders with terrorism charges.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday rejected a statement by the German government calling for the trio’s release ahead of Monday’s court verdict, calling it interference with local judiciary decisions.
Mr. Abdel-Fattah is a software developer, blogger and activist who recently published a book of his essays written from prison. He has been in prison on and off since 2013 as Egypt’s security forces rounded up people associated with the uprising, determined to prevent a repeat of the revolution.
“This is our future frozen indefinitely, or until a time this regime feels content with its vengeance,” said Mr. Abdel-Fattah’s sister Mona Seif, writing on Facebook before the verdict on Monday.
—Jared Malsin in Istanbul contributed to this article.
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