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Egypt's top appeals court upholds 3-year sentences against 3 prominent activists over protest

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CAIRO — Egypt's highest appeal court on Tuesday upheld convictions and three-year prison sentences for three prominent activists for violating the country's draconian law on protests, their lawyer said.

The three — Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohammed Adel — have already spent over a year in jail, following their arrest on charges of breaking a 2013 law that criminalizes political gatherings of more than 10 people without government permission and imposes tough penalties on violators.

The decision by Cairo's Cassation Court left the three without any other legal options, said Tarek al-Awadi, their lawyer. The court also ordered the three to be on probation for three years after serving their sentences.

The decision is likely to fuel more criticism of the protest law, even among allies of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, and the police's heavy-handedness in implementing it.

PHOTO: FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2013  file photo, a protester is detained near a Cairo court where supporters of the April 6 youth group gathered to condemn the detention of 24 activists arrested the previous week while taking part in a protest that was not authorized by authorities, in Cairo. Egypt.  A defense lawyer said Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015 that Egypt’s highest appeal court has upheld the convictions and three-year prison sentences handed down to Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohammed Adel, three of Egypt’s most prominent political activists for violating a draconian protest law.  (AP Photo/Ahmed Omar, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2013 file photo, a protester is detained near a Cairo court where supporters of the April 6 youth group gathered to condemn the detention of 24 activists arrested the previous week while taking part in a protest that was not authorized by authorities, in Cairo. Egypt. A defense lawyer said Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015 that Egypt’s highest appeal court has upheld the convictions and three-year prison sentences handed down to Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohammed Adel, three of Egypt’s most prominent political activists for violating a draconian protest law. (AP Photo/Ahmed Omar, File)

The criticism was reignited after Saturday's killing of a female protester who died as police dispersed a small rally on the eve of the anniversary of the 2011 protests that led to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. On Sunday, at least 20 people were killed, including 3 policemen, in violent protests.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday that at least 11 cases of journalists being detained, a reporter beaten by protesters and two photographers injured by birdshot, were documented by local groups on the anniversary.

Images of Shaimaa el-Sabbagh, with blood running down her face as she was lifted off the ground by a colleague amid a security chase, struck a nerve with Egyptians who have grown accustomed to violent clashes with police.

The protest she took part in was peaceful and small, organized by a leftist political party that had been allied with el-Sissi and the military in the 2013 overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Her killing also raised calls for abolishing or amending the protest law, which also gives police the right to use force to disperse protesters.

Thousands have been arrested according to the law, mostly Islamists.

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