Egyptian activist freed on probation


Egyptian activist Ahmed Maher, a symbol of the popular uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011, has been released after three years in prison for breaking a law banning unapproved protests, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Maher, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and a founder of the April 6 movement, broke the 2013 law seen by activists as unconstitutional and designed to prevent a repeat of the mass protests that toppled two presidents in five years.

The 36-year-old civil engineer now starts three years of probation and will have to stay in a police station every night between 6 pm and 6 am, his lawyer, Mohamed Gaheen, said.
“The purpose of the probation period is to watch criminals after they finish their prison terms, but it has never been used before against political prisoners,” Gaheen told Reuters.

Since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi seized power by toppling freely elected Mohamed Mursi, he has presided over a crackdown on Islamist opponents that has seen hundreds killed and many thousands jailed.

But the dragnet has since widened to include secular and liberal activists at the forefront of the uprising that ended Mubarak’s 30 years in power.

The law on protests says the Interior Ministry must be notified of any public gathering of more than 10 people at least three days in advance.

It also imposes jail sentences of up to five years for those who violate a broad list of restrictions and allows security forces to disperse illegal demonstrations with water cannon, tear gas and birdshot.