Egypt hands businessman life sentence over rare protests

An Egyptian military court on Sunday sentenced in absentia a Spain-based critic of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to life in prison over calls for anti-government protests,

state media reported. Mohamed Ali, a construction contractor and fledgeling actor, burst onto Egypt's political scene in 2019 when videos he posted on social media accusing

Sisi and the military elite of corruption went viral. His posts, filmed from Spain where he has lived for several years, racked up millions of views and briefly sparked a

wave of small-scale but boisterous demonstrations by hundreds of people in the North African nation. In the wake of the protests, Egyptian authorities arrested some 4,000

people, including well-known academics, activists and lawyers, rights groups said. The court sentenced Ali to life in prison together with 37 co-accused, while several dozen

others were handed prison terms of between five and 15 years, state media reported. Such courts often deal with "terrorism" offences, and their sentences cannot be

appealed. Local media said Ali, 48, was placed on Egypt's "terrorist" blacklist, which would ban him from travel and freezes his assets. Rights activists have accused

Cairo of using travel bans to prevent opposition figures from leaving the country. Egypt later this month marks 12 years since the 2011 revolt that toppled long-time

autocrat Hosni Mubarak during the Arab Spring uprisings. In 2013, mass protests against Islamist president Mohamed Morsi led to his ouster by then-army chief

Sisi.