At year’s end, Egypt maintains little tolerance for dissent

Ashraf Khalil at Al Jazeera:

ScreenHunter_473 Dec. 27 16.15Twenty-one schoolgirls from Alexandria, in northwest Egypt, were sentenced to 11 years in prison last month for demonstrating in favor of deposed President Mohammed Morsi and handing out balloons bearing the Muslim Brotherhood's yellow four-fingers symbol. The symbol commemorates the bloody August clearing of a Brotherhood sit-in outside Cairo's Rabaa el-Adaweya Mosque.

“These women and girls should have never been arrested,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, in a postverdict statement. “They are now prisoners of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Though the women's sentences were quickly reduced on appeal in early December — the seven minors received three months' probation, the rest suspended one-year sentences — the incident is perhaps the most disturbing example of a crackdown being carried out against supporters of the former president and his organization, the Muslim Brotherhood.

With much of the Brotherhood's leadership, including Morsi, locked up or in exile, authorities have in recent months rounded up thousands of alleged members in mass arrests.

More here.