Douma becomes the latest leader from the Tahrir Square uprising to face charges. All were charged with staging “riots.”
An Egyptian court sentenced prominent activist Ahmed Douma along with 229 other anti-Mubarak activists to life in prison on Wednesday after the court held hearings for 269 people connected to “the cabinet headquarters events” of December 2011, judicial sources said.
Douma and 268 others were accused of staging “riots” outside central Cairo’s cabinet headquarters and assaulting policemen during a sit-in back in December 2011 against a decision by Egypt’s then-ruling military council to appoint as prime minister Kamal al-Ganzouri, who had served in this position under ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
In addition to “rioting,” the activists were accused of possessing white arms like knives, attacking police officers and armed forces, burning the al-Majmaa al-Alami and attacking other government buildings including the cabinet headquarters.
Thirty-nine other defendants, all minors, were sentenced to 10 years in prison. All 269 defendants were found guilty of taking part in clashes with security forces near Cairo’s Tahrir Square in December 2011, the sources said.
In April, Douma along with two other prominent activists, were sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a 10,000 Egyptian pound (around $1,300) fine. The fine was raised on Wednesday to 17 million Egyptian pounds (around $2 million).
In December an Egyptian court dismissed charges against Mubarak for ordering security forces to kill protesters during the 2011 uprising.
That verdict, and others handed down to Mubarak-era figures, has led some to conclude that the old regime that existed before the uprising has been reestablished under a different name.
Wednesday’s ruling, which can be appealed, is the harshest court order delivered so far against non-Islamist activists, amid a government crackdown on dissent overseen by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Authorities banned the Muslim Brotherhood following Mursi’s ouster and launched a heavy crackdown on its members, leaving at least 1,400 dead and 15,000 jailed, including hundreds sentenced to death for allegedly taking part in deadly riots in August 2013.
Egypt was brought in November in front of the UN’s top human rights body for a litany of rights abuses, including its crackdown, mass arrests and unfair trials targeting Mursi supporters, journalists and activists, described as “unprecedented in recent history.”
Besides the heavy crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters, many of the leading secular activists behind the 2011 uprising have also found themselves on the wrong side of the new political leadership, getting locked up for taking part in peaceful demonstrations following the recent ban on unlicensed protests.
Critics accuse Sisi of taking Egypt back to authoritarian rule. Sisi says he is committed to democracy in Egypt, a strategic US ally with influence across the Arab world.