[JURIST] An Egyptian court on Sunday sentenced 23 activists to three years in prison for protesting without a permit, an act that violates a law enacted [JURIST report] in November 2013. The men were arrested in June while protesting the restrictive protest law that requires demonstrators to obtain permission from authorities one week in advance of gathering in public, grants the interior ministry the right to reject requests and imposes severe fines for violations. In addition to violating the protest law, the men were also convicted of [Reuters report] blocking off a road during the demonstration, damaging public property and using violence “with the aim of terrorizing citizens.” Rights groups have constantly voiced concern over the law, suggesting that it is being used to scare citizens into not opposing the government. In October of last year Human Rights Watch [official website] condemned the law [JURIST report], saying that it falls short of the obligation to respect freedom of assembly. It also expressed concern over the scope of the law’s application, vague language and its broad restrictions and discretionary powers.
Since the law banning unauthorized protests was passed, Egypt has detained numerous demonstrators, especially those affiliated with ousted former president Mohammad Morsi [BBC backgrounder] and his Muslim Brotherhood [party website] political party. Last month prominent Egyptian blogger and activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah was released on bail [JURIST report] as he faces retrial for organizing an unauthorized protest. Also in September a pan-Arab rights group released a report accusing Egyptian authorities of being complicit in the torture [JURIST report] and sexual abuse of detained teenage protesters. In July the Egyptian government banned [JURIST report] the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood as part of their crackdown on the ousted regime. In June an Egyptian court sentenced [JURIST report] 34 Morsi supporters to a fine and two years in prison for violating the protest law.