Middle East/North Africa

Egyptian Court Sentences 683 Muslim Brotherhood Members To Death

Egyptian Pyramids 2

In another controversial sentencing in an Egyptian court, 683 members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been sentenced to death in Egypt over their support for former President Mohamed Morsi.  The decision is similar to a court sentencing in March that sentenced over 500 people to death for similar reasons.  Many of those death sentences were later overturned by another court, instead sentencing most of them to life in prison.  The trial is controversial for its high rate of death sentenced as well as its speed; the trial only lasted a matter of minutes before a final ruling. 

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An Egyptian court here on Monday sentenced to death the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and more than 680 other people after a swift mass trial on charges of inciting or committing acts of violence that led to the destruction of a police station and the killing of an officer.

The verdict, after a trial lasting only a few minutes, came just a month after the same judge drew condemnation from around the world for sentencing 529 other people to death in a similarly lightning-fast mass trial. The judge, Sayedd Yousef, affirmed the death sentences Monday of about 40 of the defendants in that mass trial and commuted the others to life in prison, which is understood here to mean 25 years.

The verdicts Monday and last month are subject to appeal. Both sets of trials involved sentences in absentia for many defendants who are still at large, and if they are arrested all will receive a retrial. But there has been little, if any, public criticism of the decisions from within the Egyptian judiciary, once regarded as a bastion of relative liberalism within Egypt’s authoritarian system.

The speed and scale of the latest batch of sentences, in defiance of international outrage at the earlier one, appeared to underscore the judiciary’s energetic support for the new military-led government’s sweeping crackdown on its political opponents, including Islamist supporters of the ousted President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as more liberal groups.

In a separate ruling on Monday, a Cairo court banned the activities of the April 6 group, a liberal organization that spearheaded the revolt against President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The group continued its work opposing police brutality and pushing for democratic reforms under Mr. Morsi, and it has continued to defend the right to dissent since his military ouster last summer.

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