Egyptian court frees 21 women who took part in Islamist protest
CAIRO // Egyptian appeals courts on Saturday ordered 14 women jailed after a protest to be freed, reducing 11-year prison terms to one-year suspended sentences.
Seven girls arrested at the same protest were also ordered released.
Supporters in the Alexandria courtroom cheered the decision.
The girls, who had initially been sentenced to juvenile detention, were ordered freed by a separate court and placed on three months’ probation.
The initial sentences in November had shocked even supporters of the interim government, with images of the white-clad defendants also galvanising the Islamist opposition.
The 21 were all convicted of taking part in a violent protest demanding the reinstatement of the Islamist Mohammed Morsi as president after he was removed from power by the army in July.
Holding red roses, the 14 women appeared in court in white prison garb, with “freedom” scrawled in black marker on their palms.
The hearing by a juvenile appeals court for the seven girls was held in an adjacent courtroom.
Judge Sharif Hafiz found the 14 women guilty of three counts relating to violence during the protest, but reduced their sentence to one year and suspended it.
Their lawyer Ahmed Al Hamrawy had urged the court to acquit them, arguing there was no evidence against the women.
“Even in Mubarak’s era there were morals. Egypt’s women and girls were a red line and they weren’t placed on trial,” he said.
“This is an oppressive sentence,” one defendant, Salma, said during a recess before the verdict.
She said her daughter was among the seven juveniles sentenced, and explained that they had both been near the October 31 protest by chance when arrested.
The prosecutor general’s office charged that the women fought with knives and threw rocks during clashes that erupted during the protest in Egypt’s second city.
Six men said to be Muslim Brotherhood leaders were tried in absentia in the same case and sentenced to 15 years.
They were found guilty of inciting the women during the clashes.
Hamdeen Sabbahi, a former presidential candidate and leading dissident under Mr Morsi, called on the interim president, Adly Mansour, to pardon the girls.
Much of the Brotherhood’s leadership, including Mr Morsi, is on trial on various charges of inciting violence.
Courts have handed out sentences to Islamist demonstrators, including 12 men imprisoned for 17 years after a violent protest in Cairo.
* Agence France-Presse
Updated: December 7, 2013 04:00 AM