CAIRO (AFP) – An Egyptian court sentenced 78 teenage boys to between two and five years in prison Wednesday for joining protests demanding the return of the ousted conservative president, judicial sources said.
The authorities have engaged in a crackdown on Mohamed Mursi’s supporters since the army deposed him last year, with hundreds jailed in mass trials the United Nations has described as “unprecedented in recent history”.
On Wednesday a court in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria sentenced 78 boys who are under 18 for joining the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood’s rallies in the past three months, a judicial official said.
While the judicial sources said the boys were aged between 13 and 17, their defence lawyer said the youngest was 15.
“The 78 minors, members of the Muslim Brotherhood, were arrested for participating in protests organised by the group calling for the downfall of the regime in which they blocked roads and transportation, and terrified citizens,” state agency MENA reported.
They will be held in juvenile detention until they turn 18, when they will be transferred to adult prison.
Last December, the government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist organisation”.
“The number of children jailed since Mursi’s ouster is unprecedented,” said Ahmed Messilhy, head of a committee to defend children at Egypt’s lawyers syndicate.
Defence lawyer Ayman El Dabi said he planned to appeal the ruling within the next few weeks.
The defendants, he said, were arrested at several protests over the past year and had been in detention since.
Some were not even protesting and “were in the wrong place”, he added.