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Senior Muslim Brotherhood politician handed 6-year jail term

Al-Beltagi was in court on charges of breaking out of jail during the 2011 uprising when the court accused him of offending the judiciary
Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood politician Mohamed al-Beltagi during his trial in Cairo on 8 May 2014 (AFP)
An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader to six years in jail after it accused him of offending the judiciary.
 
Mohamed al-Beltagi, the head of the Cairo office of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, was attending a session of his trial on charges of breaking out of his jail cell and escaping during the 2011 popular uprising in Egypt when the court accused him of offending presiding judge Shaaban el-Shami and the judiciary, according to a judicial source.
 
Ousted president Mohamed Morsi and scores of other Brotherhood leaders and members are also being tried along with al-Beltagi in the same jailbreak case.
 
On Saturday, al-Beltagi asked the judges to thoroughly review CDs of phone conversations among several government figures on Morsi's detention following his ouster in July of last year.
 
He added that the desire of the judges not to review the CDs in detail amounted to "injustice", which was considered offensive by the court.
 
The court then sentenced him to six years in jail, the judicial source said, as well as a fine of $2,800.
 
Osama al-Helw, a lawyer of the Brotherhood defendants in the case, said he and fellow defense team members would appeal the verdict.
 
Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected leader, was ousted by the military in 2013 – after only one year in office – following protests against his presidency.
 
He currently faces four separate trials for multiple criminal charges, including espionage, jailbreak and "offending the judiciary."
 
Morsi, like his co-defendants, insists that the charges against him are politically driven.
 
On Saturday, the court adjourned until 10 January when the jailbreak trial is due to continue.
 
Egypt police arrest 477 Brotherhood members in 12 days
 
Egyptian security forces have detained 477 members of the Muslim Brotherhood in security swoops in the past 12 days, the Interior Ministry said Sunday.
 
"Some 477 members of the 'terrorist' Muslim Brotherhood group and rioters have been arrested in various provinces," the ministry said in a statement.
 
According to the statement, 2,013 firearms and 12 workshops for manufacturing weapons had been seized during the raids.
 
The statement said that 15 gangs of arms traffickers had also been detained.
 
Since last year's ouster of elected President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's military-backed government has waged a relentless crackdown on political dissent – largely targeting Morsi supporters – which has seen hundreds killed and thousands detained.
 
Last year, Egyptian authorities designated the decades-old Brotherhood, the group from which Morsi hails, a "terrorist" organization, blaming it for a spate of deadly attacks on security officials in the country.
 
The Brotherhood denies the allegations, saying that it is committed to peaceful activism.
 
Two mass trials in 2014 saw 1,200 people, largely Muslim Brotherhood supporters, sentenced to death. That ruling was “a breach of international law,” according to the United Nations, and 1,000 of the sentences have since been commuted to life.
 

Egypt to release 130 student detainees

 
Egypt's prosecutor-general ordered Sunday the release of 130 students, including minors, who have been arrested on violence-related charges.
 
The prosecutor-general's office said in a statement that the students' release was meant "to maintain their future and allow them to pursue their education."
 
A judicial source told The Anadolu Agency that the release order includes some student supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, who have been recently arrested from pro-Morsi university protests.
 
The order also includes members of other protest movements, the source asserted.
 
In September, Egyptian authorities released scores of detained students ahead of the beginning of the 2014/15 academic year at Egyptian universities, which began in October.
 
Throughout the previous academic year, which began two months after Morsi's ouster and imprisonment, many Egyptian universities became epicenters of protest against what critics decried as a "military coup."
 
In many cases, pro-Morsi student demonstrations turned into deadly confrontations with security forces.
 
Over the course of the last year, numerous students have been thrown in jail for participating in demonstrations, while university administrations have expelled many others or barred them from sitting for final exams.