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Egyptian court sends activist Ahmed Douma to jail for life

CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian court sentenced prominent activist Ahmed Douma to life in prison on Wednesday, judicial sources said, part of a sustained crackdown on Islamist and liberal government opponents.

Egyptian political activist Ahmed Douma attends his trial in Cairo, February 4, 2015. REUTERS/Al Youm Al Saabi Newspaper

Douma, a leading figure in the pro-democracy revolt that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak, was convicted of rioting, inciting violence and attacking security forces in late 2011.

The court also sentenced 229 others to life in jail in absentia for the same charges, and 39 juveniles received 10-year sentences in absentia. Life sentences in Egypt last 25 years.

The judge, Mohamed Nagi Shehata, jailed three Al Jazeera journalists, including Australian Peter Greste, last year in a case that provoked an international outcry, and has sentenced hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death.

He runs a criminal court in Giza, a satellite city of Cairo, and has played a prominent role in the Egyptian judiciary’s mass jailings of Islamist and liberal demonstrators since Islamist president Mohamed Mursi was deposed in mid-2013.

Douma was among protesters in Cairo and other cities who called on the military council which ruled Egypt for 18 months after Mubarak’s ouster to give up power.

Like several other prominent activists well-known in Egypt for their roles in the 2011 uprising, Douma has been jailed by every Egyptian leader since Mubarak: the military council, Mursi, and former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who went on to become elected president.

When Shehata read his verdict, Douma laughed and clapped from his courtroom cage. The judge - who also fined Douma 17 million Egyptian pounds ($2 million) - then threatened to jail him for another three years for insulting the court.

According to courtoom witnesses, Douma then said, “This is enough. I am happy with the verdict.”

Photos published on Egyptian websites showed Shehata, wearing sunglasses and with his arms crossed, sitting in a chair and staring at the smirking defendant.

In December, the same judge sentenced Douma to three years in jail after he accused Shehata of bias and denounced as political his trial on charges of violence against the state.

Last month, a separate court handed down a three-year jail term for Douma and activists Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel.

Reporting by Omar Fahmy and Mahmoud Mourad; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Michael Georgy and Louise Ireland