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Two Islamist leaders have been sentenced, by an Egyptian court on Sunday, to 15 years in prison for disseminating false news and inciting against state institutions.

A former presidential candidate and head of the Islamist Strong Egypt party, Abdel-Monaem Abul Fetouh and acting leader of the Muslim Brotherhood group, Mahmoud Ezzat, along with other seven defendants were given 15-year sentences on the same charges.

Cairo court also reportedly sentenced Mohamed el-Kassas, the deputy head of the Strong Egypt party, and another activist, Moaz el-Sharqawi, to 10 years in prison on similar charges including membership in an outlawed group, the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt officially designated as a terrorist organization in 2013. Thousands of Brotherhood members and sympathizers were arrested in an ensuing crackdown. The court also sentenced 14 others to life in prison.

Abul Fetouh, 70, and el-Kassas were both detained in Feb. 2018, after targeting and voicing criticism of the government of President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi. Egypt's pro-government media insisted Abul Fetouh’s sympathies are still with the Brotherhood. Egypt banned the Brotherhood after Sissi, the former army chief, led the overthrow of democratically-elected Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi following mass protests in 2013.

Meanwhile, Ezzat, a 77-year-old Muslim Brotherhood figure, was detained in Aug. 2020. He was part of the wanted list since the military removed Egypt’s first democratically elected president, a Brotherhood leader Morsi. Ezzat, who is already serving multiple life sentences on different charges, was convicted of several terror-related crimes and sentenced twice to death in absentia in two separate cases. He has been retried in one case and sentenced to life in prison in April 2021. Abul Fetouh, Ezzat and el-Kassas were all added to the country’s terror list.

Several rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have all repeatedly tried to criticize Egypt's mass sentencing, calling out officials and authorities for fair trials. According to the rights groups, the arrests and trials of the likes of Abul Fetouh and el-Kassas are part of a government crackdown of dissent that targeted not only Islamist political opponents but also pro-democracy activists, journalists and online critics.

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