An Egyptian court confirmed on Saturday death sentences against the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and 182 supporters, a strong sign that the crackdown on the group will continue under new President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
The ruling by the southern Minya Criminal Court is the largest confirmed mass death sentence to be handed down in Egypt in recent memory and comes from Judge Saeed Yousef, who earlier presided over the trial. It is the second death sentence for the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie following the overthrow of the country’s Islamist president Mohammed Morsi last July.
The court acquitted more than 400 others in the case, as family members of the accused wailed or cheered the verdicts.
The court case stems from an attack on a police station in the town of el-Adwa near the southern city of Minya on August 14 which killed one police officer and one civilian.
Similar revenge attacks swept across Egypt following a security force crackdown on Cairo sit-ins supporting Morsi. Hundreds were killed in those attacks.
The charges in the case ranged from murder, joining a terrorist organization, sabotage, possession of weapons and terrorizing civilians.
The end for the Brotherhood?
Saturday’s court decision comes just two weeks after Sisi took office as president after winning an election in May. In the run-up to the election, Sisi said that the now outlawed Brotherhood - Egypt’s oldest, most organised and successful political group - was finished and would not exist under his rule.
Initially, Judge Yousef sentenced some 683 people to death in the case, but then sent it to Egypt’s Grand Mufti, the country’s top spiritual leader. The Mufti offered his opinion and then sent the case back to Youssef to confirm his sentence.
Lawyers for the accused said they planned to appeal. Of the initial 683, all but 110 were tried in absentia, a defense lawyer said, meaning they will receive new trials once apprehended as guaranteed by Egyptian law.
Badie, who is being held in a Cairo prison, did not attend, an official said.
The mass trials have drawn worldwide rebuke, with both the United States and European Union saying they were appalled by the rulings.
However, the trials have continued with many Egyptians appearing to approve of the heavy-handed measures as a way to finally end the turmoil that has blighted the country since its 2011 revolt against autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
“There has been an excess in using the death sentences recently, which will only lead to more violence in society because people are now used to the idea of execution, killing and blood,” prominent rights lawyer Negad el-Borai said.
Strong emotions in court
Female relatives to those who were acquitted ululated, clapped and chanted the pro-military slogan: “The army and the people are one hand.”
Those whose relatives received death sentences screamed in grief and shouted insults to the brother of the police officer slain in the Minya attack. They believe police shot the officer themselves as part of a conspiracy against their loved ones.
Ashour Qaddab, the brother of the slain police officer, broke down after the verdict. “This is God’s justice ... to my brother’s five orphans,” Qaddab said.
On hearing him, relatives of other defendants screamed: “Your brother was killed by police!”
(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-06-21