An Egyptian court on Wednesday sentenced 71 persons to prison for 10 years each for “protesting without a security permission and inciting riots” over protests that took place in November 2016 and were dubbed in the media as “The Poor’s Uprising” protests, Anadolu Agency reported, citing the defendants’ lawyer.
Amr Faramawy told the news agency that the defendants were sentenced in absentia.
One defendant in the same case was present in court and was handed down a one year sentence. Another was acquitted for the insufficiency of evidence, and because it was proven that h was outside Egypt when the protests took place.
For the defendants who were present in the court when the verdicts were pronounced, verdicts are not final and may be appealed at a higher court within 60 days of their issuance, the lawyer added, according to Anadolu.
As for those who were sentenced in absentia, they may appeal only after they have been arrested or have turned themselves in to the police.
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The case dates back to November 2016 when a number of neighbourhoods and villages across Egyptian provinces against price hikes and what protesters said was a rising poverty. The police arrested some of the protesters.
They were later persecuted and referred to criminal court for “protesting without security permission and inciting riots.”
The Egyptian assembly law, which was issued by an interim government in 2013 following a military coup that ousted Mohamed Morsi as president, requires protesters to acquire an approval from the police before protesting. The law has been widely criticized by local and international human rights activists and organisations, with Amnesty International, for example, describing it as “draconian”.
Price hikes have constituted a major problem for working and middle classes in Egypt, which is suffering from an economic crisis that the government acknowledges and is seeking to resolve through a reform program.
The inflation rate increased by 30.7 per cent in 2017 compared to the previous year, according to a statement by the state statistics agency, CAPMAS, on Wednesday.
Inflation has been steadily rising since the government decided to float the Egyptian pound’s price against foreign currencies in November 2016, allowing the exchange rate to be determined by the supply and demand, Anadolu said.