Egyptian women jailed for years over protests
Group of 14 women, including minors, face 11 years in jail for rally, as interim PM defends state response to protests.
Gregg Carlstrom Last updated: 27 Nov 2013 19:15
The women handed out flyers and formed a human chain [AP]
Cairo — A group of women have
been jailed for 11 years for a peaceful protest in Alexandria, as
Egypt's interim prime minister gave a strong defence of a law further
restricting public demonstrations.|
The women, supporters of the deposed president Mohamed Morsi, received 11-year jail sentences on Wednesday for forming a human chain and passing out flyers earlier this month. Seven minors among the group were remanded to juvenile detention until they reach legal age. The youngest in the group is 15 years old.
Six men, described by prosecutors as Muslim Brotherhood leaders, were sentenced to 15-year terms, accused of being members of a "terrorist organisation".
In a news conference also on Wednesday, Hazem el-Beblawi, the interim prime minister, defended a new law requires which citizens to apply for permission before marching as a "necessary step".
“The cabinet confirms that it will apply the law fully to show its support for the police in the face of terrorism. The law is subject to change, but through the proper channels.”
Protesters opposed to both Morsi and the interim army-backed government meanwhile gathered in downtown Cairo for a rally against the law.
Unexpectedly, the interior ministry announced that it had approved the march, even though organisers denied applying for a permit.
The ministry said the application was submitted by the father of Salah Ahmed Mohamed, known as “Jika”, the first protester killed during deposed Morsi’s tenure.
Wednesday’s rally was only announced in the morning, giving far less than the required period of notice.
The backlash against the law is the latest criticism of Beblawi’s increasingly unpopular government. Even some supporters think it went too far in restricting personal freedoms: Leaders of Tamarod, the petition campaign that organised the protests that preceded Morsi’s ouster, have criticised the law as too harsh, and several were arrested while protesting against it on Tuesday in the southern city of Aswan.
“They had one party against them already, the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Magdi Hussein, a campaigner from Tamarod who attended Tuesday’s protest. “I don’t know why they passed this law. It will turn another group against them.”
Cyclone Phailin: Mass evacuations in eastern India
As many as 500,000 people in India have been evacuated as a massive cyclone sweeps through the Bay of Bengal towards the east coast.
Cyclone Phailin, categorised as "very severe" by weather forecasters, is expected to hit Orissa and Andhra Pradesh states on Saturday evening.
The Meteorological Department has predicted the storm will bring winds of up to 220km/h (136mph).
A super-cyclone in 1999 killed more than 10,000 people in Orissa.
But officials say this time they are better prepared, the BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Orissa reports.
The Meteorological Department said Cyclone Phailin was due to make landfall late on Saturday evening, Indian time. The centre of the storm was expected to hit the coast around the town of Gopalpur.Homes at risk
Officials said Cyclone Phailin would bring a storm surge of at least 3m (10ft) that was likely to cause "extensive damage" to mud houses on the coast.
"No-one will be allowed to stay in mud and thatched houses in the coastal areas,'' said Orissa's Disaster Management Minister Surya Narayan Patra.
The army is on standby in the two states for emergency and relief operations. Officials said helicopters and food packages were ready to be dropped in the storm-affected areas.
Meanwhile, the US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Centre predicted that Phailin could produce gusts of up to 296km/h (184 mph), while the London-based Tropical Storm Risk classified Phailin as a Category Five storm - the most powerful.
Fishermen have been asked not to venture out to sea.
Heavy rain and winds have already struck Orissa, where authorities have set up storm shelters for evacuees.
Janmejay Mohapatra, a resident of Orissa state capital Bhubaneswar, said it was too dangerous to go out now, as trees were down and debris was flying everywhere.
"Already the rain is very heavy and the wind is gusting at 100-120km an hour," he told the BBC. "The phone lines are down where I am and we have no electricity."
Minister Surya Narayan Patra said:"We are fighting against nature. We are better prepared this time, we learnt a lot from 1999."
India's eastern coast and Bangladesh are routinely hit by cyclonic storms between April and November which cause deaths and widespread damage to property.
In December 2011, Cyclone Thane hit the southern state of Tamil Nadu, killing dozens of people.