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Egypt Military Court Convicts 16 Men

July 30, 2002

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HAEKSTEP, Egypt (AP) _ A military court convicted 16 men, mostly academics and professionals, of belonging to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, sentencing them to up to five years in prison Tuesday.

The court acquitted six other defendants in the case.

Of the 16 convicted, five received five-year jail terms and 11 got three years.

The defendants went on trial in December on charges of subversion, sedition and recruiting new members for the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamic opposition bloc and a sharp critic of government policies.

The government banned the Muslim Brotherhood in 1954, accusing it of advocating the violent overthrow of Egypt’s government. Leaders of the 74-year-old group say they renounced violence decades ago and strive to use democratic means to transform Egypt into a Muslim state.

During the trial, the military prosecutor distanced the Brotherhood from more radical Islamic groups in Egypt, a country of 68 million people that has wrestled with Muslim militancy for more than three decades.

International human rights groups have criticized military trials of civilians and said the 22 defendants were targeted because of their beliefs.

Despite the ban on the Muslim Brotherhood, the group has been tolerated at various levels by the government. Although it cannot compete in elections as a political party, 17 of the candidates it supported in the 2000 parliamentary elections won seats as independents.

The defendants who received five-year jail terms were two university professors, Mahmoud Sayed Ghozlan and Abdel-Monaim Ali el-Barbari; businessman Taher Hussein; engineer Osama Ahmed Abu Shadia and accountant Maged Hassan el-Zomor.

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