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Egypt jails protesters over opposition to transfer of Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia

Egypt has jailed protesters who opposed a decision to transfer islands to Saudi Arabia. The demonstrators have been given prison terms of between two and five years.

Nearly 300 people were arrested and charged after protesting against the decision to cede the Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia. The

demonstration on April 25 was the largest

to be organized since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took power three years ago.

The protesters were convicted Saturday of breaking a law banning people from protesting without first notifying the Interior Ministry. There were 33 defendants present in court, while the others were out on bail.

The state-owned al-Ahram newspaper reported that 101 defendants received five-year prison terms and 51 received two-year sentences, according to Reuters. Defense lawyer Ahmed Helmy said they would appeal: "There is no evidence of guilt,"he said.

Watch video 01:53

Islands handover infuriates Egyptians

The decision to hand over the islands to Saudi Arabia was made during a visit to Egypt by King Salman (photo), who also announced a series of aid and investment projects.

Both Egypt and Saudi Arabia have maintained that the islands were only under Egyptian control because Riyadh had asked Egypt to protect them in 1950.

Other protests

Thousands of supporters of elected and deposed President Mohamed Morsi and scores of pro-democracy activists have been jailed since 2013.

In the leadup to the protests over the Red Sea islands, police made dozens of arrests to

discourage a repeat of a large rally

on April 15 at which demonstrators chanted for the "fall of the regime".

As chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, Sisi headed the 2013 removal of Morsi before he resigned from the army and won presidential elections the following year.

In April 2015 Morsi, who is in jail, was sentenced to 20 years in jail for the arrest and torture of protesters and incitement to violence.

jbh/jm (Reuters, AFP)

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