Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Monday, 15 December 2008

Egypt court convicts food rioters

Some of the defendants react in court as their sentences are read - 15/12/2008
Most of the protesters were workers at Mahalla's large textile mill

An Egyptian court has sentenced 22 people to jail for between three and five years over food riots in April.

They were convicted on charges of looting, assaulting police officers and possessing dangerous materials. Another 27 defendants were acquitted.

Security forces killed three civilians and arrested hundreds of people during two days of protests over rising food prices in the town of Mahalla al-Kobra.

The demonstrations were part of a wave of protests in Egypt over inflation.

Reading the verdicts, Judge Abdel-Maaboud blamed international economic forces for the sharply rising price of basic food staples in Egypt.

Despite allegations of police brutality during the riots, he praised the security forces for the restraint they had shown in quelling the protests.

No appeal

Some of those convicted shouted at the judge as he read the verdicts, and several hundred supporters chanted anti-government slogans outside the court in Tanta, north of Cairo.

The sentences - handed down by the Emergency Supreme State Security Court - can not be appealed and only President Hosni Mubarak can issue a pardon.

Most of the demonstrators during the April riots were workers at the town's textile mill, Egypt's largest.

The World Bank estimated at the time that global food prices had increased 83% in the past three years.

There have been a number of riots in Mahalla this year, as the highly-organised workforce has clashed with state security, says the BBC's Christian Fraser in Cairo.

Elsewhere in Egypt, 11 people were killed earlier this year as people clashed while standing in line to buy subsidised bread from state bakeries.

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