An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced deposed president Mohamed Mursi and more than 100 other people to death for their role in a mass jailbreak during the 2011 uprising.
Hours after the ruling, gunmen shot dead two judges, a prosecutor and their driver in the strife-torn Sinai Peninsula, in the first such attack on the judiciary in the region.
Mursi, sitting in a caged dock in the blue uniform of convicts after already been sentenced to 20 years for inciting violence, raised his fists defiantly when the verdict was read.
Judge Shabaan El Shamy handed down the same sentence to more than 100 other defendants, including Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badei, already sentenced to death in another trial, and his deputy Khairat al Shater.
Mursi, elected president in 2012 as the Brotherhood’s compromise candidate after Shater was disqualified, ruled for only a year before mass protests spurred the military to overthrow him in July 2013. He was among dozens of leaders detained amid a crackdown that left hundreds of Mursi supporters dead.
Many of those sentenced on Saturday were tried in absentia, including prominent Qatar-based cleric Yusuf alQaradawi.
The court will pronounce its final decision on June 2, since under Egyptian law, death sentences are referred to the grand mufti, the government’s interpreter of Islamic law, who plays an advisory role. Defendants can still appeal even after the mufti’s recommendation.
“If he [Mursi] decides that we appeal against the verdict, then we will. If he continues to not recognise this court, then we won’t appeal,” said defence lawyer Abdel Moneim Abdel Maksoud.
Amnesty International lashed out at the verdict, saying it reflected “the deplorable state of the country’s criminal justice system”.
“The death penalty has become the favourite tool for the Egyptian authorities to purge the political opposition,” the London-based rights watchdog said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the death sentence, saying the country was “turning back into ancient Egypt”, referring to Pharaonic rule that ended more than two millennia ago.
“The popularly elected president of Egypt, chosen with 52 per cent of the vote, has unfortunately been sentenced to death,” Erdogan said at a rally in Istanbul, to howls of protest from the crowd.
Condemning the verdict, Hamas said that some of its members mentioned in the proceedings were already dead before the 2011 uprising, while some are in Israeli prisons.
The verdict “is a crime against the Palestinian people and their courageous resistance, and is a systematic demonisation campaign targeting Hamas”, spokesman Fawzy Barhum told AFP news agency.
Judges shot dead
After the verdict was pronounced, gunmen in the Sinai shot dead two judges and a prosecutor travelling to El Arish for a court hearing. Their driver was also killed and another prosecutor was wounded, health ministry spokesman Hossam Abdel Ghaffar told AFP.
Some of Mursi’s fellow defendants included militants from Sinai, where they often attack security forces.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2015.
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