An Egyptian court has sentenced 529 Egyptians to death because of their support for former President Mohammed Morsi. They have all been found guilty on charges of murdering a policeman and for attacks against police. The trial was held as a group, which was one of the largest group trials in Egyptian history. Those sentenced have the right to appeal, and some human rights lawyers have commented that they think the ruling will be overturned.
A court in Egypt sentenced to death 529 supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi on charges of murdering a policeman and attacking police, convicting them after only two sessions in one of the largest mass trials in the country in decades.
The verdicts are subject to appeal and would likely be overturned, rights lawyers said. But they said the swiftness and harshness of the rulings on such a large scale underlined the extent to which Egypt’s courts have been politicized and due process has been ignored amid a sweeping crackdown on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood supporters since the military removed the president last summer.
The first of the trial’s two sessions in a court in the city of Minya, south of Cairo, saw furious arguments as the judge angrily rejected requests by defense lawyers for more time to let them review the trial documents for the hundreds of defendants. In Monday’s session when the verdicts and sentences were read, security forces barred defense lawyers from attending, one of the lawyers, Yasser Zidan, told The Associated Press.
“This is way over the top and unacceptable,” said attorney Mohammed Zarie, who heads a rights center in Cairo. “It turns the judiciary in Egypt from a tool for achieving justice to an instrument for taking revenge.”
“This verdict could be a precedent both in the history of Egyptian courts and perhaps, tribunals elsewhere in the world,” he added.
All but around 150 of the defendants in the case were tried in absentia by the court in the city of Minya, south of Cairo. The judges acquitted 16 defendants.