CAIRO -- An Egyptian court is sending yet another prominent liberal activist to jail for holding an unauthorized protest. Mahienour el-Massry was sentenced to two years in prison on Tuesday and slammed with a roughly $7,000 fine on charges of protesting without a permit, assaulting a police officer, wrecking a police car and blocking a road.
El-Massry -- along with eight other activists who received the same sentence -- had appealed the verdict two times after it was initially handed down in January. They will join tens of thousands of detainees -- including academics, journalists and supporters of the now banned Muslim Brotherhood -- who have been jailed since the military ousted President Mohammed Morsi last July. The exact number of those imprisoned is unknown.
The charges stemmed from a protest in December outside the trial of policemen charged with the 2010 murder of Khaled Said, a young man who later became a symbol of the revolution. El-Massry and other activists did not obey a new law, issued in November by former military leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, which requires a permit for all demonstrations. Much of the Egyptian population has rallied behind the law and el-Sissi's promise to restore security.
Before el-Massry’s trial on Tuesday, she vowed on Facebook to keep fighting for the same values of justice and freedom that launched the revolution.
“We do not like the prisons but we are not afraid of them,” she wrote in a post, translated roughly into English by blogger Omar Kamel. Hundreds of people shared her Facebook status and took to Twitter to voice their support for her and fury over her arrest.
— Jonathan Moremi (@jonamorem) May 21, 2014
We used to march in protests during Mubarak's era in solidarity with judges who are now persecuting those who protest. #FreeMahienour
— روح كل عيش (@mo2mensaeed) May 21, 2014
— Amro Ali (@_amroali) May 21, 2014
In the most recent high-profile case before Tuesday's sentencing, three prominent liberal activists were sentenced in April to three years in prison for violating the protest law and assaulting police. Two of those sentenced were co-founders of the April 6th Movement, a mobilizing force of young activists who helped ignite protests in 2011.
The well-known Egyptian blogger known as Zeinobia angrily slammed the activists’ sentencing as unjust. “This witch hunt will not stop the #25Jan revolution especially among the youth, the angry frustrated youth who had enough already,” she wrote. “Unfortunately all what we can do now is to scream in the virtual space.”
As of midday Wednesday, more than 10,000 people had “liked” the Facebook page “Free Mahienour,” which calls for her release.
“We said we want to bring down the regime, and now once again we are working to beautify it,” she said. “For example, now we have the presidency battle and we think we’ll get a savior. Whoever this savior is going to be, we forgot that our problem was in the regime of one person.”
“We aren’t working towards changing the regime,” she continued. “We are still in the regime. Still in the same old way believing that one person is the solution. Still believing a party will carry the answer. This is not true. Not true at all.”
Egyptians will go to the polls on Monday and Tuesday to elect another new president, and el-Sissi is expected to win by a landslide. Preliminary results indicate that the popular leader has already won a striking 92.5 percent of early expat votes at Egyptian embassies around the world.