April 16, 2015 / 6:49 PM / 3 years ago

Sister says imprisoned U.S-Egyptian just an 'idealistic guy'

CAIRO (Reuters) - From her home in Washington DC, Hanaa Soltan said she felt an overwhelming sense of grief when an Egyptian court condemned her father to death and her U.S-Egyptian brother to life in jail for involvement in the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Salah and Mohamed Soltan, sentenced on Saturday with 49 others, were among thousands detained after Islamist president Mohamed Mursi was toppled in 2013 by the military under Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is now president. Sisi describes the Brotherhood as a major security threat.

“I felt dazed. My thoughts immediately went to how they both must be feeling, especially Mohamed, as my dad’s preliminary sentence had been handed out a month prior,” Hanaa Soltan said by email on Thursday.

Her family has been running a campaign to free her 27-year-old brother, who has been on hunger strike in detention and has appeared emaciated in photographs. His U.S. citizenship has meant U.S. officials have called for his release, citing concerns about his health.

The court said Mohamed had supported the Islamist movement and transmitted false news. His family deny he was a member of the Brotherhood, unlike his father, who was a senior figure in the group.

Mohamed had joined protests in Egypt and objected to “the return of military rule” Hanna said.

“He became a de facto citizen journalist, helping foreign correspondents cover the events,” she said. He was detained in August 2013.

The White House has condemned Mohamed’s life sentence, which in Egypt would typically mean 25 years. His family is in constant contact with the U.S. State Department and hopes he will be able to come home, Hanaa said.

She said her brother, who had studied at Ohio State University, had hoped for peaceful change in Egypt following the 2011 overthrow of long-term president Hosni Mubarak.

“Mohamed is a very idealistic guy, so you can imagine how impassioned he feels about all the great American ideals such as democracy and freedom of speech,” she wrote.

“He dreamt of seeing those ideals realized in Egypt. Like many others with roots in Egypt, he was full of hope for a brighter future for it.”

Egypt has declared the Brotherhood a terrorist group and accused it of carrying out bombings. The Brotherhood says it is a peaceful movement committed to democracy.

Judge Mohamed Nagi Shehata said on Saturday Mohamed deserved the punishment because money and instructions from the Brotherhood had been found on him and he had spread “chaos and horror” in society.

Hanaa said her mother hoped to visit Mohamed on Thursday in Cairo’s Tora prison complex where his family say he is in urgent need of medical care in solitary confinement.

Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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