Egypt protest leader Abdel Fatah faces trial on March 23
Political activist Alaa Abdel Fatah - YOUM7/Mahmoud Hefnawy
AFP

CAIRO: Prominent activist Alaa Abdel Fatah is to stand trial on March 23 for allegedly participating in a violent protest, state media reported Saturday, amid concerns Egypt’s military-installed regime is increasingly stifling dissent.

The announcement came as a court handed two-year prison sentences to 68 supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and opposition activists on the same charge, a judicial source said.

Abdel Fatah was a well-known activist and blogger during the 2011 uprising that overthrew strongman Hosni Mubarak, and he supported the military’s ousting of Morsi two years later.

But he and other activists have since clashed with the new government, which has waged an extensive crackdown on both Islamists and secular activists like him.

He had been hailed as an “icon of the revolution” by the military-installed presidency after Morsi’s overthrow, before he began protesting against the new regime.

Abdel Fatah will face trial with 24 other defendants for a November protest against a clause in the constitution allowing the military to court martial civilians, the official MENA news agency reported.

He is charged with assaulting a police officer during the protest, held in violation of a law that bans all but police-sanctioned demonstrations.

Three other prominent secular activists have been sentenced to three years in prison for violating the law.

In an appeal hearing last week, the activists alleged they were beaten by policemen for almost 15 minutes before they were ushered into the caged dock at the court room, prompting their lawyers to walk out in protest at their treatment.

At least 1,400 people, mostly Islamists, have been killed in street clashes since Morsi’s overthrow, according to Amnesty International.

Thousands have been arrested and hundreds placed on trial, with courts often handing out mass sentencings.

Many liberal and leftist activists who opposed both Mubarak and Morsi now say they fear rights are being eroded by an emboldened interior ministry that has arrested dissidents and journalists.

Egypt is due to hold presidential elections this spring that will likely be contested and won by army chief Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

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