A misdemeanor court in Egypt on Sunday acquitted 155 protesters who were arrested in connection with the violent clashes with police in October. The court dismissed the charges [Al-Ahram report, Arabic] of assaulting a police officer and vandalism. This group was specifically tied to violence on October 6 that killed almost 50 people. Thousands remain in jail awaiting trial, including former president Mohamed Morsi [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], following the police crackdown on protesters supporting the Muslim Brotherhood [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. In addition, a court in Alexandria released [Al-Ahram report, Arabic] a group of 21 female protesters, including seven teenagers, previously sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Egypt has faced political unrest since its revolution [JURIST backgrounder], which began more than two years ago. Last week Egypt's draft constitution was finalized [JURIST report] by a 50-member assembly, creating uncertainty about the country's election procedures. The draft dictates that elections are to take place within the first six months of the constitution's ratification. However, the draft does not determine whether a presidential election should be held before or after parliamentary elections. Also last week, Egyptian blogger and activist Alaa Abd El Fattah [Twitter feed] was arrested [JURIST report] on charges of inciting a demonstration in violation of the country's controversial new law [JURIST report] restricting rights to protest. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has voiced concern [JURIST report] over the growing violence and rising death toll in Egypt stemming from ongoing protests throughout the country.