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Egypt court reduces protest prison sentences, 21 to be freed

An Egyptian court has reduced the prison sentences of 21 Islamist women and girls jailed after a protest demanding the reinstatement of ousted President Morsi. They were expected to be released from prison as a result.

The appeals court in Alexandria on Saturday upheld the guilty verdicts against 14 women convicted last month on charges of illegal assembly, destroying property and carrying weapons in connection with violence that broke out at a demonstration at the end of October demanding the reinstatement of former President Morsi.

However, the judge also reduced the sentences of the 14 women from 11 years in jail to one-year suspended sentences. A defense lawyer for the women said this meant that after spending more than a month in custody, the women would now be released.

Seven teenage girls who had been held in a juvenile detention center were also freed from custody but placed on three months' probation.

Supporters of the women in the Alexandria courtroom broke out into chants of "God is great" as soon as the presiding judge announced the ruling.

The original convictions and sentences handed down to all 21 last month caused outcry both in Egypt and abroad. Human Rights Watch described the sentences as "blatantly political."

Thousands of Morsi supporters have been imprisoned since the army toppled him back in July, following mass street protests against his government, which coincided with the one-year anniversary of his taking office.

Morsi and much of the leadership of his Muslim Brotherhood movement are in custody facing various charges of inciting violence.

pfd/ph (AFP, AP, dpa)