CAIRO – In the largest mass death sentence in modern history, an Egyptian court sentenced 529 members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death, a verdict expected to fuel instability in the Middle East pivotal state.
“The court has decided to sentence to death 529 defendants, and 16 were acquitted,” defense lawyer Ahmed al-Sharif told Reuters.
The sentence was delivered in the second hearing of a trial which began on Saturday in Minya, south of the capital.
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Of those sentenced, 153 are in detention and the rest are on the run, the sources said, adding that 17 others were acquitted.
"When the trial starts on Saturday and it is just a procedural hearing, and the judge doesn't listen to any lawyers or witnesses and doesn't even call the defendants, you are before a group of thugs and not the judiciary," Walid, a relative of one of the defendants, told Reuters over the phone.
The charges against the group include violence, inciting murder, storming a police station, attacking persons and damaging public and private property.
It was not possible to confirm his account of the proceedings independently.
Those sentenced are among more than 1,200 Morsi supporters on trial in Minya.
The sentenced include the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Dr Mohamed Badie and the Mohamed Saad El-Katatni, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party.
State television reported the sentences without comment.
After the sentence, family members stood outside the courthouse screaming after the verdict, deemed as the biggest mass death sentence handed out in Egypt's modern history.
On December 25, the then deputy Prime Minister Hossam Eisa read a short statement on state television that officially declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
Execution of Justice
The court decision was met by immediate condemnations from the opposition and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.
On the Brotherhood’s official website, the group responded by calling for the "downfall of military rule".
Mohamed Mahsoub, who served as minister of legal affairs under deposed President Mohamed Morsi, described the court's decision "a ruling calling for the execution of justice" on his Facebook page.
The sentences came days before army chief Field Marshall Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was expected to declare his candidacy in presidential elections.
Being the only name suggested so far, Sisi is widely expected to win.
"This is the quickest case and the number sentenced to death is the largest in the history of the judiciary," said lawyer Nabil Abdel Salam, who defends some Brotherhood leaders including Morsi.
The verdict was sent to the grand mufti, Egypt's highest religious authority, for consideration, a judicial source said. The mufti's opinion is not binding.
HA Hellyer, an Egypt expert and fellow at American think-tank the Brookings Institution, said he doubted the sentences would be carried out.
"Nevertheless, the very issuing of the sentence itself is quite significant," he added.
Egypt has been thrown into turmoil after Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, was toppled by the powerful military on Wednesday after massive protests against his regime.
The Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, has vowed to continue in peaceful protests until the Islamist president is reinstated.
There has since been a severe crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood group, as well as on other activists seen as hostile to the military-backed interim government.
Last December, the Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organization after which the authorities punished any public show of support for it.
A second group of 700 Morsi supporters is due to go on trial on Tuesday.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net - Read full article here
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