[26 November 2014]
A court in Egypt has given 78 youths up to five years in prison for protesting with the Muslim Brotherhood. The boys, from 13 to 17 years old, joined rallies calling for the return of ousted President Mohammed Morsi. The authorities have cracked down on Islamists since President Morsi was removed by the military in 2013. Thousands of his supporters have been killed and arrested since the Muslim Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organisation.
State media reported that the boys were arrested for "participating in protests calling for the downfall of the regime". The protests "blocked roads" and "terrified citizens" said the state agency Mena. The boys' defence lawyer, Ayman El-Dabi, said that some of the boys had not been protesting and had just been "in the wrong place".
On Wednesday, the Egyptian government approved a draft anti-terrorism law giving sweeping powers to curb opposition groups for a range of new offences. The government's crackdown on supporters of the deposed President Morsi has left at least 1,400 people dead and more than 15,000 in prison. Death sentences on 528 supporters of President Morsi were handed down at a mass trial in March. The prosecution of a further 919 suspected Islamists was ordered by the authorities in two separate trials in the same month. The rise of mass convictions in Egypt has been described by the United Nations as "unprecedented".