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Mass trials in Egypt sentence 163 Morsi supporters to long jail terms

Courts in Egypt have jailed 163 supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi for up to fifteen years. The sentences come a week ahead of presidential elections.

The convictions in the courts in Cairo and in the Nile Delta city of Kafr el-Sheikh are the latest in a series over recent months that saw hundreds of people who prosecutors identified as Morsi supporters sentenced to death or imprisonment.

The 126 people found guilty in the northern province of Kafr El-Sheikh were accused of rioting and attacking security forces on August 16, two days after police killed hundreds of Morsi supporters in the capital. They were also charged with belonging to a banned group, a reference to Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood. All of them received ten-year prison terms.

Defendants chanted "Down with military rule" as Judge Hassan Fareed handed down the sentences.

A further 37 people received 15-year sentences from a court in Cairo in a second case related to an alleged attempt to blow up a Cairo metro station last year. They can appeal. It was not clear if all defendants who were sentenced were in police custody.

Election run-up

Sunday's verdicts came one day after a homemade bomb exploded at an election rally for presidential candidate and former army leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, wounding four people, including two police officers. No one claimed immediately responsibility for the attack.

El-Sissi is expected to easily win

the May 26-27 vote. His only rival in this month's vote is leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi. Interim president Adly Mansour decreed on Sunday that the new president would get a monthly salary of 21,000 Egyptian pounds (2,957 dollars) plus a similar sum each month for entertainment.

The decree amends

a 1987 law which set the president's monthly salary at 12,000 pounds with a similar amount per year for entertainment.

Continued detention

Meanwhile, reporters for the al-Jazeera television network have also been in jail since December. Australian reporter Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy and local produce, Baher Mohamed have been detained on charges of smearing Egypt's reputation, helping terrorists and doctoring footage.

A campaign via social media site Twitter calling for the reporters' release has gained support around the world under the hashtag #FreeAJStaff.

A fourth colleague, al-Jazeera Arabic correspondent, Abdullah Elshamy, has separately been detained without charge since his arrest while reporting in Cairo last August. Their trial was adjourned, again, on Thursday until May 22. Their request for bail has been denied.

jm/tj (AP, dpa, AFP)

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