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102 alleged Islamists sentenced to prison in Egypt

| Saturday, May 3, 2014, 7:54 p.m.
AFP/Getty Images
Egyptian security forces inspect the wreckage of a car that exploded late on Friday, May 2, 2014 in central Cairo. The driver was killed in the blast.

CAIRO — An Egyptian court sentenced 102 alleged Islamists to 10 years in prison on Saturday for rioting.

The case in Cairo is part of a crackdown against supporters of toppled President Mohamed Morsy's Muslim Brotherhood group.

Among those who are awaiting a day in court: Mohamed Soltan, a 26-year-old Ohio college graduate. A dual U.S.-Egyptian citizen, he is withering away on a hunger strike in a Cairo-area prison.

Soltan, the only American imprisoned in Egypt, is to be tried for a raft of terror and conspiracy charges related to his participation in demonstrations against the military's ouster of Morsy last summer. In January, he started fasting to protest his now eight-month-long detention, and a private doctor who visited him on April 19 said the once-stocky basketball player has lost at least 98 pounds and can no longer stand on his own.

Soltan's family has accused the U.S. government of not doing enough to push Egyptian authorities to resolve or drop his case, which they say is politically motivated. Critics of U.S. policy toward Egypt say such inaction is part of a larger failure by the Obama administration to hold Egypt accountable for increasingly repressive policies, including a vicious crackdown in which hundreds have been killed and thousands arrested.

On April 23, U.S. officials announced that they would deliver 10 Apache helicopters in a partial resumption of military aid, despite the ongoing mass trials of political opponents in which hundreds have been sentenced to death. Egypt's government has denounced any condemnation of its actions as meddling in its domestic affairs.

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo declined to comment on what steps, if any, the United States is taking to pressure the Egyptian government to free Soltan. But an embassy official said embassy representatives have visited Soltan several times in the Tora prison outside Cairo and have been present at Soltan's hearings.

“He doesn't understand how there can be such an insane level of injustice,” said Soltan's sister, Hanaa Soltan, a clinical social worker in Washington.

Through smuggled handwritten letters and visits with relatives, Soltan has been able to sporadically update family members on the conditions of his incarceration.

“No visits, no food, no one knows where we are,” Soltan wrote of the first two weeks since he was arrested and being ferried through Egypt's prison system. “Stripped to our boxers and beaten by 100+ officers while handcuffed,” he wrote in a report to mark 100 days since his arrest, which was posted on the Free Soltan Facebook page.

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