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Egypt Orders Detention of Prominent Activist Mahinour el-Masry Over Protest

FILE - Mahinour el-Masry, an Egyptian activist, takes notes during a trial session of activists facing charges on organizing unauthorized protests, at a courtroom in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 4, 2014.

An Egyptian court has ordered a prominent activist to remain in custody pending trial on charges of participating in an illegal protest against the government's transfer of two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, a rights lawyer said on Saturday.

Mahinour el-Masry, a rights lawyer herself and notable activist from the country's 2011 uprising, and another defendant attended Saturday's trial in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, said Taher Aboelnasr.

The court ordered that they remain detained until it reconvenes on Dec. 30.

Aboelnasr said el-Masry and four other activists are on trial over charges of protesting illegally in June against the surrender of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba to Saudi Arabia. The presidency has since ratified the transfer of the islands.

After the islands agreement was first announced in 2016, Egypt saw the largest anti-government protests since President Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi took office in 2014. Hundreds of demonstrators and activists were arrested, with most later released.

In 2015, Egypt's top court sentenced el-Masry and two others to 15 months in prison on charges of attacking a police station in Alexandria in Dec. 2013.

She and her co-defendants were given two-year prison terms. They appealed and lost, but were given reduced sentences.

El-Masry, 31, is a member of the Revolutionary Socialists movement. She is widely known for her activism in many labor movements, and on behalf of Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Egypt. She has been outspoken on the rights of detainees and political prisoners.

El-Masry was awarded the Ludovic Trarieux Human Rights Prize in 2014 for her work as a "defender of human rights." At the time she was serving a six-month sentence in a separate case in which she faced charges of illegally protesting in 2013 in solidarity with Khaled Said, whose brutal 2010 death while in state custody helped spark Egypt's 2011 uprising.

All unauthorized demonstrations in Egypt are illegal under a law adopted in late 2013 and security forces have previously used lethal force against peaceful demonstrators.