A court in the Egyptian city of Alexandria on Thursday handed out extreme severe punishments to 21 girls and women who demonstrated in October for the reinstatement of former president Mohammed Morsi. The court convicted 14 of them to 11 years and one month in jail for destruction of private property,
attacking security forces and stirring violence. It ordered seven minors to be placed in a detention centre until they reach the age of majority. These girls range from 15 to 17 years. The 21 women were arrested in late October during clashes
with residents following a demonstration.
The Alexandria ruling is being seen as part of the wide crackdown led
by Egyptian authorities against Islamists since Morsi's ouster. More
than 2,000 Muslim Brotherhood members have been detained on charges of
inciting violence, including the group's top leaders.
Earlier in November, a court sentenced 12 university students to 17
years in prison over riots at Al-Azhar Institution, also stiring
criticism over the harshness of the sentence. The students were found
guilty of attempting to storm the headquarters of the institution,
inciting riots and attacking Al-Azhar employees and security personnel,
as well as sabotaging public and private property. They were ordered to
pay a fine of LE64,000 each.
The Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
said in a statement published on its website that the ruling was
politicised, warning that such rulings raised "doubts over the future of
justice in Egypt" and presaged a return to the use of "justice
institutions as a tool against the opposition.”
Gamal Eid, the head of ANHRI, wrote on Twitter that, "In the city of
Alexandria, the same justice released Wael El-Komi, a defendant accused
of killing 37 martyrs, and sentenced 14 girls to 11 years (of jail)."
"The state of law welcomes you," he added ironically.
On his Twitter account, former presidential candidate and Nasserist
figure Hamdeen Sabbahi called on "President Adly Mansour to use his
powers to pardon the girls."
On Thursday, several student unions in different faculties in
Alexandria Universitiy resigned over the ruling, according to Egypt's
state news agency MENA. They also called on students to go on strike
until the 21 female detainees are released.
Mahmoud Gaber, lawyer for the women, told Ahram Online he has appealed against the ruling.