April 14, 2015 / 10:09 AM / in 3 years

Egypt upholds Islamist ex-presidential candidate's jail term: sources

Egypt's Salafi leader and former presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail looks on from the defendant cage during his trial in Cairo December 19, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt’s highest civilian court on Tuesday upheld a seven-year jail term for an Islamist politician and ex-presidential candidate convicted of falsifying official documents, his lawyer and judicial sources said.

Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, a hardline Salafist Islamist, was one of many political figures arrested by the military after freely elected Islamist president Mohamed Mursi was toppled in 2013 following mass protests against his rule.

Abu Ismail was disqualified from the 2012 election when it emerged that his mother held U.S. citizenship. The election committee said this meant he could not run.

In April last year, a criminal court found him guilty of falsifying official documents related to his mother’s nationality, and sentenced him to seven years in jail.

The High Court refused his appeal, making the earlier verdict final and unchallengeable, judicial sources said.

“The court refused to hear our defense, and refused the appeal,” Abu Ismail’s lawyer Al-Mushir Ahmed told reporters.

On Saturday, an Egyptian court sentenced Mohamed Badie, leader of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, and 13 other senior members of the group to death for inciting chaos and violence, and gave a life term to Mohamed Soltan, a U.S.-Egyptian citizen.

Egypt’s mass trials of Brotherhood members and people accused of links to the group, as well as its crackdown on Islamist and liberal opposition figures, have drawn international criticism of its judiciary and its rights record.

“We remain troubled by the practice of mass trials and sentencing, which we have said run counter to what we think due process under the law should look like,” Marie Harf, U.S. State Department spokeswoman, told a briefing on Monday.

Rights advocates have criticized a recent U.S. decision to end a freeze on military aid to Cairo, saying Washington is neglecting human rights. The United States has said the decision to end the freeze was in the interest of national security.

“I think we have been clear that the threats to Egypt’s security have increased over the past few months, and obviously we are making decisions based on that,” Harf said.

Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi describes the Brotherhood as a major security threat. The group says it is committed to peaceful activism.

Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad; Additional reporting by Ahmed Tolba Editing by Sylvia Westall and Louise Ireland

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