An Egyptian court has sentenced prominent activist Ahmed Douma to life in prison, judicial sources said Wednesday, in the latest in a series of severe sentences handed down to liberal activists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Douma, along with 229 others tried in absentia, was sentenced to life in prison — which equates in Egypt to 25 years — after being convicted of rioting, inciting violence and attacking security forces in a case known as the "Cabinet clashes."
The deadly Dec. 2011 clashes occurred after security forces arrived to break up a sit-in in front of the Cabinet headquarters in Cairo. Douma, a leader in the Jan. 25 movement calling for former President Hosni Mubarak to step down, was accused along with others of attacking security forces and calling for rioting during the clashes that left 18 people dead.
Douma and his lawyers complained of irregularities and legal violations in the trial, which was presided over by controversial judge Mohamed Nagi Shehata. Shehata sentenced three Al Jazeera journalists to years in jail on charges including aiding the Muslim Brotherhood and reporting false news, and has sentenced hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death.
After President Mohamed Morsi was deposed in 2013, and before Abdel Fatteh El-Sisi — a former general — took power following a military coup, the interim government labeled the Muslim Brotherhood a "terrorist" group. It has since faced a security crackdown across Egypt.
Douma has been jailed by every Egyptian leader since Mubarak. After Mubarak was overthrown, Douma took part in protests against Morsi and later joined demonstrations against the military, denouncing restrictions on protests.
When the guilty verdict was read Wednesday, Douma clapped from inside a cage where defendants are held in the courtroom during trial. Angered, the judge — who also fined Douma 17 million Egyptian pounds ($2 million) — threatened to add another three years to his sentence for allegedly insulting the court.
According to courtroom witnesses, Douma then said, "This is enough. I am happy with the verdict."
Photos published by Egyptian media showed Judge Shehata wearing dark sunglasses and staring at Douma as he smirked.
Douma's defense team said they eventually boycotted the trial amid reports that the judge ordered security to block the lawyers from coming into the session, Egyptian news website Mada Masr reported.
A lawyer at the Egyptian Center for Personal and Social Rights, Sameh Samir, who was on Douma's defense team, accused the judge of "arbitrary treatment" and legal violations against the defense team, according to Mada Masr. Douma defended himself during Wednesday's session.
The defense team said Shehata repeatedly refused their basic demands, including access to papers related to the case, and wouldn't allow defense witnesses to be admitted, Mada Masr reported.
In December, Shehata sentenced Douma to three years in jail after Douma accused the judge of bias and denounced as the trial as political. Shehata, a senior judge in the Cairo Criminal Court, typically handles cases related to protests and terror charges, according to the Cairo Post.
With wire services