Egypt prosecutor orders trial for leading activists

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 05, 2013 3:22 PM
Egypt prosecutor orders trial for leading activists

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's public prosecutor referred a group of 12 political activists to trial on Wednesday on charges of inciting violence near the Muslim Brotherhood's headquarters in March, the state news agency reported.

The group included Alaa Abd El Fattah, a blogger who played a leading role in the protests that led to the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, judicial sources said.

Several hundred people were injured in the March violence, a sign of the tensions between the Islamists who support President Mohamed Mursi and more secular-minded parties.

The case is the latest in a number of prosecutions of political activists. The accused also include Ahmed Douma, who was sentenced to six months in jail on Monday for calling Mursi a criminal.

Writing on his Twitter feed, Abd El Fattah said the authorities were trying to destroy his reputation.

"The defamation that is happening to us is a part of the regime that will end when the regime falls," he said.

Mursi's opponents accuse him of seeking to dominate the post-Mubarak order and trying to smother Egypt's new freedoms - charges he denies. The Brotherhood accuses the opposition of using violence to sabotage his rule.

The activists have been charged with inciting violence using social media and other means. Abd El Fattah and Douma were among five activists ordered arrested in late March when the prosecutor began his investigation.

Those arrest warrants drew a statement of concern from the United States, which supplies Egypt with $1.3 billion in military aid each year.

NGO SUBVERSION PLOT

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was sharply critical of an Egyptian court's decision to convict 43 democracy workers, including 16 Americans, in what he described as a politically motivated case against international non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The investigation into the NGOs, including the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute, focused on charges that they were operating without licenses and receiving funds from abroad illegally.

Court documents showed that the judges who handed down Tuesday's sentences saw U.S. funding as part of a plot to subvert Egypt's revolution to suit the United States and Israel - a country Egypt made peace with in 1979.

"Funding is one form of control and new domination ... used by donor states to disturb the security and stability of the recipient states," it said.

Though the investigation was launched before Mursi assumed office, Tuesday's rulings have further darkened the mood among civil society activists after the president drafted a new law to regulate NGOs that they say is too restrictive.

"The verdict will not only have a chilling effect on civil society but also illustrates that the mindset of Mubarak's police state is still alive and kicking," said Heba Morayef, Egypt director at Human Rights Watch.

(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)