Pro-Morsi protest women freed after Egypt court ruling

The BBC's Orla Guerin reports on the appeal couirt ruling

Fourteen women jailed in Egypt over a protest in support of ousted President Mohammed Morsi have been freed after an appeal court ruling.

Seven juveniles jailed over the protest last month in Alexandria have also been released, on three months' probation.

The women's 11-year sentence was cut to one year, suspended.

Human rights groups had attacked the convictions - on charges of belonging to a terrorist group, obstructing traffic, sabotage and using force.

One campaigner described it as madness.

Reducing the sentences on Saturday, Judge Sharif Hafiz nevertheless convicted the 14 women of three counts relating to violence during the protest.

The women's lawyer said they would appeal against the new sentence too.

Hefty sentences

For the appeal hearing, the 14 women appeared inside a special cage in the Alexandria courtroom dressed in prison-issue white and holding red roses.

They had written the word "freedom" on their palms. Their supporters in the courtroom chanted, "God is great", as the verdicts were announced.

The women's lawyer, Ahmed al-Hamrawy, urged the court to acquit them, arguing there was no evidence against them.

"Even in Mubarak's era there were morals," he said. "Egypt's women and girls were a red line and they weren't placed on trial."

In November, the women and girls took part in an early morning demonstration in support of Mr Morsi.

Relatives say it was the first protest by the group - called the 7am Movement - and that it was peaceful.

The accused inside a cage in the Alexandria court The accused were making their demands visible - on the palms of their hands
Riot police stand outside the courthouse Riot police were deployed in force outside the Alexandria courthouse

Prosecutors had accused the women of fighting with knives and throwing stones during clashes that erupted at the protest, AFP news agency reports.

The father of a 15-year-old girl told the BBC he would take legal action to have the conviction quashed as his daughter and her mother were innocent passers-by.

The women had expected to be sentenced to a month in jail at most at their trial last month.

Their original sentence was longer than that given to some convicted killers, says the BBC's Orla Guerin in Cairo.

The verdict was condemned by human rights campaigners in Egypt as blatantly political, our correspondent says.

Hundreds of people have also been killed in clashes since July when Mr Morsi's removal sparked widespread protests.

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