Egypt jails girls over pro-Morsi demonstration

Human rights activists have described the sentences as 'madness', the BBC's Orla Guerin in Cairo says

A court in Egypt has sentenced 21 female supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi to 11 years in prison.

They were found guilty of multiple charges, including belonging to a terrorist group, obstructing traffic, sabotage and using force at a protest in the city of Alexandria last month.

Seven are under the age of 18 and will be sent to a juvenile detention centre.

Human rights groups criticised the sentences, with one campaigner describing the verdict as madness.

The women and girls had taken part in an early morning demonstration in support of Mr Morsi.

Relatives say it was the first protest by the group, called the 7am movement, and that it was peaceful.

One family told the BBC their 15-year-old daughter was only passing by on her way to school.

A defence lawyer said the women expected to be sentenced to a month in jail at most.

But the BBC's Orla Guerin in Cairo says that instead they have been given longer jail terms than police convicted of killing or seriously injuring civilians.

'Struggle against terrorism'

The court also sentenced six Muslim Brotherhood leaders to 15 years in prison for inciting the protest.

One report said the men had been tried in absentia.

The verdicts come after the arrest of dozens of secular activists in Cairo, including another group of women who say they were beaten, harassed and left stranded in the desert.

They were demonstrating against a stringent new law which all but bans public protests, part of a crackdown the interim authorities have portrayed as a struggle against "terrorism".

Also some 17 clerics linked to the Islamist movement to which Mr Morsi belongs were arrested in the Nile Delta town of Gharbiya, the state news agency Mena reported.

They are accused of using mosques and sermons to incite unrest against the army and police.

Mena also said that eight people would be put on trial on charges of abducting and torturing a lawyer during the 2011 uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.

The defendants include Mahmoud al-Khodeiry, a former judge close to the Brotherhood, Osama Yassin, who served as youth minister under Mr Morsi, and Ahmed Mansour, a presenter for al-Jazeera television.

Hundreds of people have also been killed in clashes since security forces cleared two sit-ins in Cairo by people demanding Mr Morsi's reinstatement in August.

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