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Three members of the Strong Egypt Party were sentenced in absentia Tuesday, after they were arrested in January for distributing material urging voters to reject the draft constitution.

Ahmed Badawi, Mohamed Abu Layla and Sami Ashraf were sentenced to three years in prison and a LE500 fine by Hadayek al-Qobba Misdemeanor Court.

“Members of the party committed a crime against concerned Egyptian state authorities when they practiced a right allowed only in free countries,” read a statement posted on Strong Egypt’s Facebook page. Egypt is not a free country under [the rule of] a government formed of a group of stakeholders who believe freedom is a luxury.”

The three men were arrested in early January. The “No to the constitution” flyers they were carrying were confiscated as criminal evidence, the party said at the time.

Soon after, the constitutional draft was ratified with 98 percent of the vote.

Newspapers, public figures, businessmen and politicians launched self-funded campaigns calling for the draft’s ratification, and Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi even hinted that Egyptians should vote for the document.

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