CAIRO, May 26, (Agencies): An Egyptian appeals court has overturned five-year prison sentences for 47 people for participating in unauthorised protests, but upheld fines of more than $11,000 each, judicial officials said. The defendants were among more than 150 people sentenced to jail in mid-May in connection with demonstrations on April 25 against Egypt’s decision to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. Rights campaigners accuse President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of crushing dissent since he deposed his democratically elected Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
Lawyer Mokhtar Mounir, who represented several of the defendants, criticised the fines of 100,000 Egyptian pounds ($11,260) upheld by the Cairo appeals court on Tuesday evening as “exorbitant”. He said the defendants must pay at least a quarter of the fine before they are released. If they cannot pay they will serve three months in jail. “It means that the accused must buy their freedom with money,” Mounir said, adding that the defence would lodge another appeal.
Meanwhile, a Muslim mob ransacked and torched seven Christian homes in a province south of the Egyptian capital, Cairo, after rumors spread that a Christian man had an affair with a Muslim woman, according to a statement by the local Orthodox Coptic church.
Released late Wednesday, it said that during the May 20 attack, the mother of the Christian man, who had fled the village, was publicly stripped of her clothes by the mob to humiliate her. Security officials said the woman was beaten and insulted while being paraded by the mob through the village. They said the mob was made of about 300 men.
The officials spoke on Thursday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. Ex-marital affairs or sex between unmarried couples are a taboo among both Muslims and Christians in conservative Egypt.
They often attract violent reactions in rural areas, where questions of honor could lead to deadly family feuds that endure for years or the ostracization of the perpetrators. Police arrived at the scene nearly two hours after the attacks began and arrested six people, according to the statement by Minya’s top cleric, Anba Makarios.
He said the family of the Christian man had notified the police of threats against them by Muslim villagers the day before the attack. “No one did anything and the police took no pre-emptive or security measures in anticipation of the attacks,” he told a television interviewer Wednesday night. “We are not living in a jungle or a tribal society. It’s incorrect for anyone to declare himself judge, police and ruler.”