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Egypt ‘unjustly’ imprisoned 152 people over Red Sea protests, HRW says

Human Rights Watch says prosecutor also referred 503 people to military judiciary over 'violent acts' after Rabaa massacre
Egyptians took to the streets on 15 April to protest Red Sea islands handover to Saudi Arabia (MEE)
Egyptian authorities have “unjustly” jailed more than 150 protesters since May, including those participating in peaceful demonstrations, Human Rights Watch said.
 
“Egyptian authorities are using national security threats to crush dissent among Egypt’s youth," Nadim Houry, HRW's deputy Middle East and North Africa director, said in a statement on Wednesday

"This is a policy of insecurity, not security, leaving young people unable to find the smallest space for peaceful dissent that won't land them in jail."

According to HRW, Egyptian courts sentenced 152 people to between two and five years in prison, mostly on the basis that they violated a law passed in 2013 prohibiting protests without Interior Ministry approval.

Those sentenced were rounded up in the days leading up to and on the actual day of two major protests, held on 15 April and 25 April, against the government's decision to cede two islands in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia.

Among those convicted, 47 began a hunger strike after their sentences on 18 May, and earlier this week had their prison sentences converted to $11,720 fines that must be paid before they are released, HRW reported.

Meanwhile, Egyptian Public Prosecutor Nabil Sadek has referred 503 people to the country's military judiciary over three incidents connected to “violent acts” in Minya province that allegedly took place following the Rabaa massacre, according to the defendants’ lawyer.

In the 2013 Rabaa incident, at least 817 protesters, mostly supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, were killed by security forces, according to HRW.

The lawyer, who spoke to Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said the referral decision was issued about 10 days ago, and he was informed about it late on Tuesday.

The lawyer said the defendants are accused of belonging to an “outlawed group” - a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood - and of participating in storming and burning public property.

In the years since the military coup against Morsi, Egyptian authorities have launched a relentless crackdown on dissent that has largely targeted Morsi’s supporters and members of his Muslim Brotherhood group.

The ongoing crackdown has seen hundreds killed and tens of thousands thrown behind bars.