Jail sentences for murder and illegal protests in Egypt

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An Egyptian court sentenced hundreds to jail for murder and illegally protesting after a mass trial criticised by rights groups.

But it acquitted an Irish student, a high-profile detainee who says he was tortured in custody.

Ibrahim Halawa was on trial with his three sisters and nearly 500 others, all charged with, among other crimes, breaking into a mosque, killing 44 people, and illegal possession of firearms.

The incidents followed the military ousting of former Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in 2013.

The defendants were all facing the death penalty but none received it. Instead the judge sentenced hundreds to jail terms including 43 to life in prison, which in Egypt is 25 years, and five years of parole.

Another 17 were sentenced to 15 years in prison, 67 to 10 years, and 216 to five years. Two minors were sentenced to 10 years in absentia and six to five years.

A dual Egyptian-US citizen involved in the trial was acquitted.

Egyptian rights activists say they faced the worst crackdown in their history under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, elected president in 2014 a year after as armed forces commander he led the military toppling of Mursi.

Halawa was 17 when he was arrested with hundreds of others in 2013, as part of a crackdown on protests in Egypt. He was held in pre-trial detention since then and said he was regularly tortured.
“Today’s verdict is long overdue. Ibrahim was arrested as a child for the ‘crime’ of attending a protest, tortured and tried facing the death penalty alongside adults in an unfair mass trial,” said Maya Foa, director of human rights group Reprieve, which is assisting Halawa.
“For years, these court proceedings – designed to punish political dissent – made a mockery of justice. The wider international community – including the EU, which helps to fund Egypt’s courts – must urgently call on Egypt to end its use of patently illegal mass trials.”



Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar welcomed Halawa’s acquittal and said the case was an “extraordinarily protracted” one.
“Now Ibrahim has been cleared of all charges, I expect he will be released as soon as possible and can return home to his family. Government will facilitate his return home at the earliest opportunity,” he said in a statement.