Middle East

Egypt sentences 64 to prison over islands protests

FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 file photo prominent Egyptian blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah, left, with his sister Sanaa Abdel-Fattah , speaks to the crowd after attending their father's funeral in Cairo, Egypt. Officials said the prominent activist voluntarily gave herself up to police on Saturday to start a six-month sentence passed against her last week for insulting the judiciary. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 file photo prominent Egyptian blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah, left, with his sister Sanaa Abdel-Fattah , speaks to the crowd after attending their father's funeral in Cairo, Egypt. Officials said the prominent activist voluntarily gave herself up to police on Saturday to start a six-month sentence passed against her last week for insulting the judiciary. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)  (The Associated Press)

An Egyptian defense lawyer says a Cairo court has sentenced 64 activists to two years in prison for taking part in anti-government protests last month.

Mohammed Abdel-Aziz says that of the 64, 31 were sentenced in absentia. The sentences were issued Saturday.

They were convicted of breaking a 2013 law that effectively bans street protests and disrupting traffic. Nearly 300 people have been arrested and charged for taking part in demonstrations on April 15 and 25 against Egypt's surprise decision to transfer two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

Abdel-Aziz, whose Al-Haqanya group represents five of the case's defendants, says the conviction will be appealed.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has faced mounting criticism over the islands decision, and the protests were the largest since he was elected in 2014.