Egypt activist convicted for insulting president

In this April 1, 2011 file photo, activist Ahmed Douma, left, during a march to Tahrir Square demanding prosecution of members of former President Hosni Mubarak's regime in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt's state news agency says judges have decided to keep a Douma in detention until June 3, when a verdict is expected on a charge of insulting the country's president. (AP Photo/Sarah Carr, File)

CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian activist was convicted of insulting the president and spreading false news and given a six-month suspended sentence on Monday, Egypt’s state-run news agency said.

Ahmed Douma is the first prominent critic of President Mohammed Morsi to be convicted on the charge. Several journalists, TV presenters and other individuals have also been facing similar accusations.

At a packed courthouse in a Cairo suburb, Douma flashed a V-for-victory sign from behind bars as activists clapped and chanted: “Why is the government afraid of you Douma?”

Douma was charged after he called Morsi criminal and illegitimate after a deadly security crackdown on protesters in the coastal city of Port Said that left 40 people dead in February. He also criticized Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group for being behind a bloody raid against peaceful protesters outside Morsi’s office last year.

Morsi’s government accuses its opponents of fueling unrest to undermine his rule. The opposition charges that Morsi and his group seek to monopolize power and are marginalizing even those who helped bring down longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak in the 2011 uprising.

Rights groups say that more than 2,300 protesters and activists remain either detained or facing trial since January, most of them for staging anti-government protests, some of which turned violent.

The Arab Network for Human Rights Information Center said in a recent report that the number of court cases and complaints involving charges of insulting the president during Morsi’s 10 months in power is four times the number filed during Mubarak’s rule of nearly 30 years.

In the interview that led to his trial, Douma said, “I don’t see a president ruling Egypt. I see someone called Mohammed Morsi, a criminal evading justice, who is hiding in the presidential palace.”

Activists left signs inside the courtroom that read, “Morsi is a murderer and a criminal.” Others signed petitions calling for the ouster of Morsi and early elections, as part of growing campaign of youth opposition called “Rebel.”

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