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Egypt's Morsi sentenced to 20 years over protester deaths

STR/AFP

An Egyptian court sentenced former president Mohammed Morsi to 20 years in prison on Tuesday in connection with the deaths of protesters during demonstrations against his rule in 2012. Morsi also faces charges in two other trials.

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Morsi supporters attacked opposition protesters outside the presidential palace in December 2012, sparking clashes that killed at least 10 people.

Judge Ahmed Youssef dropped the murder charges against Morsi and said the sentence was instead linked to the “show of force'' against protesters and unlawful detentions. The ruling can be appealed.

Twelve other Brotherhood leaders and supporters, including Mohammed el-Beltagy and Essam el-Erian, were also sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The Cairo Criminal Court issued the verdict as Morsi and the other defendants stood in a soundproof glass cage in a makeshift courtroom at Egypt's national police academy.

The ruling reflects Morsi's dramatic downfall and the challenges facing Egypt since the 2011 uprising that forced longtime leader Hosni Mubarak from power.

The country's first freely elected president, Morsi took power in 2012 but was ousted by the army just a year later and put on trial as the new regime of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi launched a relentless crackdown on the moderate Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.

Hundreds of Brotherhood members have since been sentenced to death and thousands more jailed. An Egyptian court on Monday sentenced 22 members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death over a 2013 attack on a police station outside Cairo.

A court in the southern city of Minya sentenced 529 members to death in a single ruling last March. Most were sentenced in absentia, with only 153 then in detention.

The Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement ahead of the verdict on Tuesday denouncing the judiciary – calling it a tool of repression – and calling for protests.

"The coup commander (Sisi) is exploiting the judiciary as a weapon in the battle against popular will and the democratic and revolutionary legitimacy represented by President Mohamed Morsi," the statement said.

The Brotherhood called for "non-stop revolutionary marches and demonstrations" starting Tuesday in support of Morsi and demanding his reinstatement.

The Muslim Brotherhood, now blacklisted by Egypt as a "terrorist organisation", has previously failed to mobilise large numbers for its rallies because of persistent fears amid a continuing crackdown.

Morsi also faces the possible death penalty in connection with two other trials, including one in which he is accused of leaking state secrets to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. He is also accused of escaping from prison during the widespread protests that ousted Mubarak.

Separate verdicts in those two cases are due on May 16.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)

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