Egyptian businessman jailed for life for protests against president
Cairo: An Egyptian military court on Sunday sentenced a Spanish critic of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to life in prison for calling for anti-government protests.
Mohammed Ali, a construction contractor and budding actor, burst onto Egypt’s political scene in 2019 when videos of him posting corruption charges against Sisi and the military elite on social media went viral.
His posts, filmed from Spain, where he lived for years, received millions of views and briefly sparked small but vociferous demonstrations by hundreds of people in the North African country.
In the wake of the protests, rights groups have reported that Egyptian authorities arrested around 4,000 people, including well-known academics, activists and lawyers.
The court sentenced Ali to life in prison along with 37 co-defendants, and several dozen others were sentenced to between five and 15 years in prison, state media reported.
Such courts often deal with “terrorist” crimes, and their convictions cannot be appealed.
Ali, 48, has been placed on Egypt’s “terrorist” blacklist, which will ban him from traveling and freeze his assets, local media reported.
Rights activists have accused Cairo of using travel bans to prevent opposition figures from leaving the country.
Egypt later this month marks 12 years since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak during the Arab Spring uprisings.
In 2013, mass protests against Islamist president Mohamed Morsi led to his ouster by then-army chief Sisi.
Later that year, a law was passed that effectively banned all protests except those authorized by the police.
Sisi assumed power as president the following year, and the ensuing crackdown first targeted Islamists, before expanding to curtail all public spaces for dissent.
Rights groups estimate there are now 65,000 political prisoners in Egypt.