Three Egyptian activists who played key roles in the 2011 uprising were handed prison sentences yesterday—a sign that officials may be retaliating against the pro-democracy movement, the New York Times reports. Ahmed Maher, Mohamed Adel, and Ahmed Douma each received three-year sentences and more than $7,000 in fines. It's the biggest legal move yet against leaders who helped overthrow former President Hosni Mubarak: "It is time to shut up, to stay quiet,” said a human rights advocate of the implied message. "There is only one choice—to support the military or to be in jail."
The official charges: assaulting police officers, and violating a new law that forbids gatherings of more than 10 people. But the Times paints a bigger picture, of a government that has turned its venom from Islamist supporters to youth activists, calling them a "fifth column" determined to undermine the nation. In prison, Maher described the turn in a letter scribbled on toilet paper: "Torture in police stations remains, while the Ministry of Interior is back to what it was. The protest law was passed, and the oppression of freedoms is back. Now, the youth of the revolution are in prison."