CAIRO (AP) — Prosecutors on Thursday sent to trial two of the most prominent Egyptian activists involved in the 2011 uprising that brought down Hosni Mubarak, charging them with taking part in an "illegal" protest and allegedly assaulting policemen during demonstrations last month, judiciary officials said.
The officials said the two — Ahmed Douma and Ahmed Maher — will be in court on Sunday for the first hearing.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.
This is the first referral of activists to trial linked to the recently enacted protest or assembly law, which places draconian conditions on staging street demonstrations. The military-backed government has defended the law as a desperately needed measure to restore law and order in order to help the battered economy recover.
The trial of Douma and Maher is the latest turn in the turmoil engulfing Egypt since 2011, and signals a growing rift between the government and liberal activists five months after the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in a coup that followed demonstrations by millions calling on him to step down.
Maher and Douma, as many other liberal activists, supported the campaign for Morsi to leave office, but have since been voicing their disapproval of what they see as the return of Mubarak-era police brutality and the curtailment of the freedom of expression.
The proceedings against the two also come days after a 50-member panel appointed by the interim president finished extensive amendments to an Islamist-tilted constitution adopted last year. However, the new document allows the trial of civilians before military courts in a wide range of cases and gives the military the exclusive right of appointing the defense minister for eight years starting from the election of the next president.
The government's campaign for a "yes" vote in a referendum to be held soon was given a massive boost when a major ultraconservative Islamist party, Al-Nour, announced on Thursday its backing for the amended charter and called on its followers to vote for the document.
Al-Nour's leader, Younis Makhyoun, told a news conference that the party's decision was designed to "safeguard the nation's interests, ensure its progress and prosperity and to spare it more chaos."
Al-Nour, which is at odds with the Brotherhood, led a coalition of Salafi parties that won about 25 percent of the vote in a parliamentary election held in late 2011 and early 2012.