An Egyptian court sentenced prominent activist Alla Abdel-Fattah and 24 others to 15 years in prison Wednesday, in a continuing government crackdown on dissent.
Abdel-Fattah and his colleagues were convicted of protesting a restrictive protest law passed last November - legislation human rights group have called repressive. They were also charged with attacking a police officer and disturbing the peace.
The activist was tried in absentia after security forces barred him and two other defendants from attending the trial. The three were arrested outside the court after the sentence was handed down.
Abdel-Fattah rose to prominence during the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time president Hosni Mubarak. He has since been active in trying to bring an end to military trials of civilians and other civilian rights causes.
Wednesday’s sentences are the first against pro-democracy activists since the inauguration of President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi Sunday.
Since his role in deposing Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Islamist Mohamed Morsi last year, el-Sissi has been seen as the driving force behind a crackdown on dissent. The main target has been Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. Egyptian courts have stunned human rights groups and others with mass death sentences given to hundreds of Brotherhood members.
In recent months, the crackdown has widened, with other government opponents increasingly the target of judicial action.
The anti-protest law Abdel-Fattah was convicted of violating requires advance police permission to hold rallies.
Demonstrations have been a key force in Egyptian politics since the 2011 revolution and used effectively by Sissi to justify his actions over the past year.