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Egypt hands down life sentences over 2019 protests

January 16, 2023

Among those sentenced in absentia was government critic Mohamed Ali, a businessman exiled in Spain. Unauthorized protests are a rare occurrence under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

An anti-government protest in Cairo
Protesters took to the streets of Cairo and other cities in 2019Image: Stringer/AFP

An Egyptian military court sentenced 38 people to life in prison on Sunday over protests in 2019.

The court tried 23 of those people in absentia.

They were charged with inciting violence against security forces and state institutions during anti-government protests in September 2019 in the port city of Suez — a rare show of dissent since President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi took power in 2014.

The court also sentenced 44 other people, including children, to jail terms ranging from five to 15 years over the same charges.

Prominent businessman sentenced

Among those sentenced to life in prison was Spain-based Egyptian businessman Mohamed Ali.

Ali, a construction contractor and fledgling actor, burst onto Egypt's political scene in 2019 when he posted videos to social media accusing el-Sissi and the military elite of corruption.

The videos, posted from Spain, went viral and sparked a wave of small scale protests in several cities across Egypt.

Mohamed Ali raising his fist in Spain
Construction contractor Mohamed Ali made waves in Egypt when he posted videos criticizing President Abdel-Fattah el-SissiImage: AP Photo/AP Photo/picture alliance

Egyptian authorities arrested some 4,000 people after the protests, including well-known academics, activists and lawyers. Rights groups estimate Egypt now holds more than 65,000 political prisoners.

In 2013, after el-Sissi was involved in a coup to oust President Mohammed Morsi, Egypt passed a law that effectively banned all protests except those authorized by police.

zc/kb (AFP, AP)