CAIRO — Three of the most prominent secular activists involved in Egypt's 2011 revolution were convicted Sunday of holding a rally without authorization and attacking police officers, receiving three-year prison terms and hefty fines in the first use of a controversial new law.
Judge Amir Assem found Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohammed Adel, founders of the April 6 youth movement, guilty of violating the law passed last month. Each of them also faces fines of $7,250.
April 6 helped organize the demonstrations that toppled longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and, like many other liberal activists, supported this year's campaign for elected Islamist President Mohammed Morsi to leave office.
Since Morsi was toppled by the military on July 3 after millions-strong demonstrations, however, the movement claims there has been a return of Mubarak-era police brutality and the curtailment of the freedom of expression — notably the protest law.
The government has described the law as an attempt to bring order and stability to the streets amid continued protests by Morsi's supporters, hundreds of whom have been killed and thousands jailed. But rights groups and politicians warn the new law is an attempt by the military-backed government to curtail dissent, particularly ahead of planned elections that would pave the way for an elected post-Morsi leadership.