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Egypt court sentences Islamist to 7 years for concealing his mother has US citizenship

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CAIRO — An Egyptian court convicted an ultraconservative Islamist who is an ally of ousted President Mohammed Morsi of forging official documents to conceal that his mother was a U.S. citizen, sentencing Wednesday him to seven years in prison.

Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail, a lawyer turned TV preacher, also received two additional one-year sentences over the course of his trial in Cairo after the presiding judge twice found him in contempt of court. Abu-Ismail has refused to recognize the jurisdiction of the court or accept legal representation, and he often argued with the judge during the proceedings and declined to recognize the lawyer delegated to him by law.

Wednesday's verdict can be appealed.

Abu-Ismail was arrested days after Egypt's military overthrew Morsi on July 3, 2013 following mass protests. Since then, authorities have conducted a sweeping crackdown on the former Islamist leader's supporters and allies, detaining at least 16,000 people, including Morsi himself. Many now face criminal charges.

The case against Abu-Ismail is rooted in his failed 2012 presidential bid. He submitted forged documents to the elections commission and was disqualified after allegations surfaced that his late mother had U.S. citizenship. Egyptian law bars anyone whose parents hold any other nationality from running for president.

PHOTO: FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2011 file photo, Egyptian Muslim cleric and candidate for the Egyptian presidency Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail, smiles as he talks to his supporters at Tahrir Sqaure during a protest against the ruling military council, in Cairo, Egypt. On Saturday, April 12, 2014, a court in Egypt has sentenced Abu-Ismail, an ultraconservative Islamist who is an ally of ousted President Mohammed Morsi to one year in prison for insulting the judiciary during his trial. Abu-Ismail, a former presidential hopeful, is being tried for allegedly concealing the fact his mother was a U.S. citizen in order to qualify for the 2012 presidential election. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2011 file photo, Egyptian Muslim cleric and candidate for the Egyptian presidency Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail, smiles as he talks to his supporters at Tahrir Sqaure during a protest against the ruling military council, in Cairo, Egypt. On Saturday, April 12, 2014, a court in Egypt has sentenced Abu-Ismail, an ultraconservative Islamist who is an ally of ousted President Mohammed Morsi to one year in prison for insulting the judiciary during his trial. Abu-Ismail, a former presidential hopeful, is being tried for allegedly concealing the fact his mother was a U.S. citizen in order to qualify for the 2012 presidential election. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

Abu-Ismail had denied his mother held U.S. citizenship, but documents revealed in the media showed she was on a voter registration list in California and became an American citizen before her death.

Morsi also was in court Wednesday, where he is on trial with 35 co-defendants on charges of conspiring with foreign groups to destabilize Egypt. During the session, the court reviewed evidence presented by the prosecutors, including reports by the state security agency and the general intelligence agency, pictures of alleged members of the Muslim Brotherhood during a visit to the Gaza Strip.

One of the videos showed a man, allegedly a defendant in the case named Khalil Osama el-Aqeed, holding a rocket propelled grenade, but el-Aqeed denied it was him. Another picture purportedly of el-Aqeed showed him carrying a machine gun inside a smuggling tunnel between Egypt and Gaza, according to Egypt's state news agency MENA.

One of Morsi's senior aides, Essam el-Haddad, who has been in detention since July 3, insisted to the court that he was "kidnapped" and that his detention was unlawful.

Morsi, who was Egypt's first democratically elected president, and his supporters have refused to acknowledge the military-backed government that took power after the army removed Morsi from office. Brotherhood supporters and other Islamists have held near-daily protests that have often turned bloody following crackdowns from security agencies.

With most of the Brotherhood's leadership in prison, students have been at the forefront of the protest movement. On Wednesday, clashes erupted inside the Islamist al-Azhar university in Cairo, and professors urged students to vacate Ain Shams university, amid demonstrations by pro-Morsi students.

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PHOTO: FILE - In this Friday, Oct. 28, 2011 file photo, Egyptian Muslim cleric and candidate for the Egyptian presidency Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail, center, is guarded by his supporters as he enters Tahrir Square during a protest against the ruling military council, in Cairo, Egypt. On Saturday, April 12, 2014, a court in Egypt sentenced Abu-Ismail, an ultraconservative Islamist who is an ally of ousted President Mohammed Morsi to one year in prison for insulting the judiciary during his trial. Abu-Ismail, a former presidential hopeful, is being tried for allegedly concealing the fact his mother was a U.S. citizen in order to qualify for the 2012 presidential election. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)
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