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Published: Friday March 21, 2014 MYT 5:51:06 AM
Updated: Friday March 21, 2014 MYT 5:52:05 AM

Egypt sentences 17 people to long jail terms for protests

CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian court on Thursday sentenced 17 people to 14 years in jail each on charges including assault and occupying public buildings during protests at Cairo's Al-Azhar University last year.

The defendants, believed to be supporters of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, had demonstrated to demand investigation and punishment of those responsible for mass food poisoning at the Al-Azhar campus.

Dozens of students were hospitalised at the time of the poisonings last April at Al-Azhar, a seat of Islamic learning that draws students from across the Sunni Muslim world.

Security forces have cracked down hard on the Brotherhood since Mursi's ouster last July, killing hundreds of supporters in the streets and arresting thousands of others. The movement's top leaders are on trial.

Human rights groups accuse the army-backed government of human rights abuses and orchestrating political trials against members of the movement, which won nearly every election after an uprising toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The government denies the allegations and has declared the Brotherhood a terrorist group that threatens the country's security. The movement says it is committed to peaceful activism.

(Writing by Michael Georgy; editing by Andrew Roche)

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