The severe jail sentences handed down by an Alexandria Misdemeanour Court to 21 female Islamist protesters in the Mediterranean city has sparked outrage in Egypt.

In a particularly harsh ruling, the court slammed 14 female protesters with 11 years and one month in jail for destruction of private property, attacking security forces and stirring violence, and ordered that seven female minors be placed in a detention centre until they reach the age of majority. The underage girls range from 15 to 17 years.

The 21 female protesters were arrested in late October during clashes with residents following a demonstration calling for the reinstatement of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. Authorities accused the demonstrators of inciting violence, blocking roads and damaging shop facades.

Mahmoud Gaber, lawyer for the women, told Ahram Online he has appealed against the ruling, deeming it illegal. He said that according to established procedures, a defendant found guilty on several charges in one judicial case should only face the harshest penalty from among the charges, and not have all the penalties added up. “This is a political ruling,” Gaber said. “If misdemeanour courts rule such harsh penalties, what is left for criminal courts?”

However, Nasser Amin, the head of the Arab Centre for the Independence of the Judiciary and a member of the National Council for Human Rights, told Ahram Online that some judges believe they can add up penalties when they concern different misdemeanours.

Amin said the ruling was “extremely harsh” and should be cancelled immediately. He added that he was sure the appeal would be accepted because “the court will be conscious of the harshness of the verdict.”

The Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said in a statement published on its website that the ruling was politicised, warning that such rulings raised “doubts over the future of justice in Egypt” and presaged a return to the use of “justice institutions as a tool against the opposition.”

Gamal Eid, the head of ANHRI, wrote on Twitter that, “In the city of Alexandria, the same justice released Wael El-Komi, a defendant accused of killing 37 martyrs, and sentenced 14 girls to 11 years (of jail).” “The state of law welcomes you,” he added ironically. see more

source: ahramonline