Jail sentence for Arab Spring activist

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An Egyptian court sentenced a leading activist in the 2011 “Arab Spring” uprising to a one-year prison term convicting him of spreading false news, a judicial source and a lawyer said.

Zyad Elelaimy, a prominent rights lawyer and former member of parliament detained since June last year on separate charges, was also fined 20,000 Egyptian pounds (983.53 pounds) by a Cairo misdemeanour court.

The court found Elelaimy guilty three years after a lawyer reported him to prosecutors citing an interview with the BBC, his lawyer Ahmed Fawzi told Reuters.

Fawzi said the defence team was unable to clarify in court which comments Elelaimy was being prosecuted for. The defence team appealed the sentence and a hearing is due to be held on April 7.

Amnesty International condemned the ruling as based on “unfounded charges” and called on Egyptian authorities to immediately release him.

“He is a prisoner of conscience, swept up in Egypt’s ruthless purge of critics and opponents,” it said in a statement.

Elelaimy was a leading Egyptian activist during the 2011 popular revolts across the region that toppled long-serving autocrat Hosni Mubarak and other Arab leaders. Mubarak died last month.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi – like Mubarak a former senior military officer – has overseen a crackdown on dissent targeting liberal opponents as well as Islamists who briefly held power after the Arab Spring.

Thousands of people were detained, though Sisi denied holding political prisoners. He and his backers say the measures are necessary to stabilise Egypt.

Elelaimy was detained last June on charges including spreading false news and co-ordinating with a terrorist group – charges commonly used against protesters and political opposition figures.

Colleagues and activists said the arrests were aimed at preventing formation of a secular coalition ahead of parliamentary elections later this year.