A court in Alexandria, Egypt has sentenced a lawyer to 10 years in jail for criticising the government of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.
According to the BBC, Mohamed Ramadan was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Thursday for using Facebook to harm unity and incite violence under a 2015 counter-terrorism law. The court also ordered that Ramadan should remain under house arrest for an additional five-year period during which he would be banned from using social media.
The BBC reports that it is unclear exactly what Ramadan, an Alexandria-based lawyer posted online last year, but he was arrested in December and subsequently detained for two days over allegations that he insulted President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on social media. He denies the charges.
Rights groups have condemned Ramadan’s sentencing with local campaigners saying he is being persecuted for his work defending human rights activists and political prisoners.
UK-based rights group, Amnesty International described Mohamed Ramadan’s conviction as a “blatant assault on freedom”, and proof that Egypt’s anti-terror laws were being used to target critics.
“It is utterly shocking that the Egyptian authorities have imposed such a heavy sentence against someone who was exercising his right to freedom of expression,” Amnesty’s Najia Bounaim said on Thursday.
Mahienour al-Masry, one of the attorneys representing Ramadan, said his client who has been receiving medical treatment in a hospital was tried and convicted in absentia. The lawyers say they intend to appeal the lengthy sentence.
Reacting to the court ruling, Ramadan said on his Facebook page that he had been convicted by “the judiciary of the counter- revolution”, adding that he was confident the current government in Egypt would not last for long.
Egypt’s President al-Sisi seized power in 2013 following a coup that ousted former president Mohammed Morsi. His government has displayed an increasing intolerance towards the free press and rights activists have repeatedly condemned the introduction of retrogressive laws that remove the limits to the time in which political dissidents can remain in detention and a blanket ban on public protests and demonstrations.
On Sunday, President al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency following a string of bombings targeting Egypt’s Coptic Churches which killed at least 45 people.