[JURIST] Egyptian activist and youth leader Ahmed Maher, known for his role in the 2011 revolution [JURIST backgrounder] against former president Hosni Mubarak [BBC profile], was released from prison on Wednesday following his arrest in 2013. Maher, as well as fellow activists Ahmed Douma and Mohammed Adel, had been arrested [BBC report] for protesting against a new law that effectively bans public gatherings with more than 10 people. Egypt’s Court of Cassation [official website] later upheld [JURIST report] their convictions and prison sentences in 2015. Maher, though released, must remain under judicial supervision.
Egypt has been internationally scrutinized in recent months over allegations of human rights infringements and free speech violations. In December Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court upheld [JURIST report] the effective ban against protests. The current law requires individuals seeking to protest to inform the interior ministry, at least three days prior, of any public gathering with more than 10 people, allows security forces to break up unapproved protests with water cannons, tear gas, and birdshot, and imposes up to five years of jail time for violation of various protest restrictions. Since its passing, thousands have been arrested, including many members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. In September an Egyptian court froze assets [JURIST report] of five notable human rights activists and three NGOs for allegedly accepting foreign funds without governmental authorization. In July Amnesty International criticized [JURIST report] the Egyptian government for abducting and torturing hundreds of citizens during a crackdown on political activists and protesters. And in May the UN urged [JURIST report] the Egyptian government end its oppressive response towards human rights advocates in the country. The experts reported that Egypt has cracked down on protesters, journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders in recent years by conducting mass arrests, using aggressive force and invading people’s privacy.