Seventeen people have been sentenced to life for their involvement in deadly unrest when then-General el-Sissi announced his presidential bid. Now Egypt's president, he has warned against challenging his grasp on power.
An Egyptian court on Sunday handed 17 people life sentences for their alleged involvement in unrest that left three people dead, including a journalist, in March 2014.
Sixteen other defendants received prison terms ranging from seven to 15 years, including a minor who received a 10-year sentence. In Egypt, a life sentence amounts to 25 years in prison.
The court found that "a group of armed Muslim Brotherhood members" had "fired randomly at citizens protesting against their group" in the Ain Shams district of Cairo, the state-owned al-Ahram newspaper reported.
Egyptian journalist Mayada Ashraf, a Coptic woman and a child were killed during the unrest that resulted when police clashed with protesters rallying against then-General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's decision to quit the armed forces and run for president as a civilian.
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The protesters had criticized el-Sissi for leading a military coup against Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, in July 2013. That year, Egyptian authorities designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group.
The protest in Ain Shams, one of Cairo's oldest districts, erupted in response to Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's decision to quit the armed forces and run for the Egyptian presidency after leading a military coup
'Repressive political environment'
El-Sissi is running for a second term in a presidential election slated for March. Although he claimed Egyptians "have the right" to choose their next president, he issued a thinly veiled warning against potential candidates earlier this month.
"Be warned. What happened seven or eight years ago, will not happen again in Egypt," el-Sissi said, referring to an uprising that toppled Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. "What didn't work then, will not work now. No … it looks like you don't know me well."
The incumbent runs practically unopposed, with one of his supporters with close ties to Egyptian intelligence the only other remaining candidate vying for the top spot. Others, including former-Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and human rights lawyer Khaled Ali, have been arrested or have withdrawn their presidential bids, citing police harassment.
According to the Washington-based Project on Middle East Democracy, the elections are taking place in "what is arguably the most repressive political environment in Egypt's modern history."
ls/sms (AFP, Reuters)