Egypt confirms 183 death sentences including Brotherhood chief

Saturday 21 June 2014 22.35
Mohamed Badie and 182 others have been sentenced to death as part of a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood
Mohamed Badie and 182 others have been sentenced to death as part of a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood

An Egyptian court has confirmed death sentences for 183 Islamists, including Muslim Bortherhood leader Mohamed Badie, in a mass trial of Islamists who have faced a fierce crackdown under new president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Badie and other defendants were charged in connection with violence that erupted in the southern town of Minya following the ousting of the Brotherhood's President Mohamed Mursi last July, led by Mr Sisi, then army chief.    

One police officer was killed in the violence.    

The court's decision came two months after it referred the case against Badie, general guide of the now outlawed Brotherhood, and 682 other defendants to a top religious authority, the first step to imposing a death penalty.

Those preliminary sentences triggered outrage among Western governments and rights groups, with the United States and European Union both saying they were appalled by the rulings.

Since the overthrow of Mr Mursi's, which was followed by protests by his supporters, hundreds of Islamist protesters have been killed and thousands jailed in a crackdown by security forces.

500 army and police officers have also been killed.

Mr Sisi, who won a presidential election last month, said in the run-up to the vote that the Brotherhood - Egypt's oldest, most organised and successful political group - was finished andwould not exist under his rule.

Amnesty International described the verdicts as "the latest example of the Egyptian judiciary's bid to crush dissent".  

There was no immediate reaction on the ruling from the Brotherhood, whose members are either in jail or on the run.       

Outside the Minya court compound, around 200 people, mostly relatives of defendants that were freed, gathered to celebrate the ruling. "Long live justice, long live Sisi," they chanted.

Out of a total 683 defendants, around 100 are in detention and the rest were tried in absentia. Four were jailed for life while 496 were acquitted, according to judiciary sources. All verdicts can be appealed before a higher court.

"Those rulings are a continued farce," prominent Egyptian human rights activist and lawyer Gamal Eid said.   

"And the state is still insisting that the judiciary is independent. I don't know how we can believe that when we see rulings like that. It is against logic and common sense. It is a joke," he said.        

The United States has said it would be unconscionable forEgypt to carry out mass death sentences against the Brotherhood and that Cairo's actions would have consequences for resumption of suspended US aid.

The US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is due to tour the Middle East this week, is expected to pay a brief visit to Egypt on Sunday, according to local Egyptian media reports.

Keywords: egypt