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Egypt court jails secular anti-Mubarak activists for 3 years

CAIRO -- An Egyptian court on Sunday sentenced three activists who spearheaded the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak to three years in jail for organizing an unlicensed protest, judicial sources said.

It was the first such verdict against non-Islamist protesters since the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi in July, and was seen by rights groups as part of a widening crackdown on demonstrations by military-installed authorities.

Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel were also found guilty of rioting and assaulting security forces during an unauthorized protest held last month, and were fined 50,000 Egyptian pounds (US$7,100, 5,200 euros) each, the sources said.

Maher is the founder of the April 6 youth movement that led the revolt against Mubarak. All three defendants were leading dissidents under Mubarak, but they also supported the military's overthrow of Morsi, whom they accused of betraying the 2011 “revolution.”

Maher and Douma were arrested after Maher's supporters allegedly scuffled with police outside a Cairo court on Nov. 30, when Maher handed himself in for questioning on suspicion he had organized an illegal protest.

Adel was absent from the first hearing on Dec. 8 but was captured earlier this week in a midnight police raid on a non-governmental organization in Cairo.

They were found guilty of violating a controversial law enacted last month that requires police authorization for protests, less than three years after Mubarak was toppled by massive pro-democracy demonstrations.

More recently, the military justified its overthrow of Morsi — Egypt's first freely elected president — as a response to massive protests against his turbulent year-long reign, which critics said was marked by power-grabbing and economic mismanagement.

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