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CAIRO (Reuters) - A court in Alexandria has sentenced leading rights activist Mahienour el-Massry to two years in prison on charges of illegally protesting against the Egyptian government’s decision to transfer two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, judicial sources said Saturday.

The court tried four other people in absentia and handed them four-year sentences on the same charges, the sources said.

El-Massry was detained in Egypt’s second largest city along with activist Moatasim Medhat at a court hearing in November, ahead of the ruling.

She can appeal against the sentence.

The plan to cede the islands to Saudi Arabia was announced last year and has become mired in political protest and legal action.

Opponents of the plan say Egypt’s sovereignty over the islands dates back to 1906, before Saudi Arabia was founded.

Saudi and Egyptian officials say the islands belong to the kingdom and were only under Egyptian control because Riyadh had asked Cairo to protect them in 1950.

(Reporting by Haitham Fathy and Mohamed Abdellah; Writing by Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

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