Earlier in the year, Egypt had sentenced over 500 members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death. On Monday, they sentenced another 683 individuals to death in connection to their support of the ousted former president of Egypt. However, it may be possible that their sentence will be changed on appeal. Of the 529 sentenced to death in March, many of their sentences were changed to life imprisonment after going through appeals.
A judge in Egypt on Monday sentenced to death 683 alleged supporters of the country’s ousted Islamist president in the latest mass trial that included the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, defense lawyers said.
But in a surprise reversal, the same judge also reduced most of the death sentences handed to 529 defendants in a similar case in March, commuting the majority of them on Monday to life imprisonment.
The judge, Said Youssef, said he was referring his ruling on the 683 death sentences for violence and the killing of policemen to the Grand Mufti, the top Islamic official – a requirement under Egyptian law, but one that is considered a formality.
Both mass trials are linked to deadly riots that erupted in Minya and elsewhere in Egypt after security forces violently disbanded sit-ins held by Brotherhood supporters in Cairo last August.
Hundreds were killed as part of a sweeping campaign against supporters of former President Mohammed Morsi, ousted by the military last July. The removal of Morsi – a year after he was elected – came after millions demonstrated against his rule, demanding he step down for abuse of power.
Among those convicted and sentenced to death on Monday was Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide. If his sentence is confirmed, it would make him the most senior Brotherhood figure sentenced to death since one of the group’s leading ideologues, Sayed Qutb, was executed in 1966.
After Mufti’s decision, the same court will hold another session on June 21 to issue the final verdicts.
Monday’s ruling sparked an outcry among families of the defendants outside the court, with women fainting and relatives wailing and crying out “Why? This is unfair!”
“My three sons are inside,” said a woman who only gave her first name, Samiya, as she screamed in grief. “I have no one but God.”
Lawyer Ali Kamal, said the hearing lasted only eight minutes. Security forces surrounded the court building and blocked roads, preventing families and media from attending the proceedings.
“This is against the spirit of the law. The verdicts will be easily appealed,” Kamal told reporters.
A total of 148 defendants were present inside the court Monday, according to a judicial official in the case. It wasn’t immediately clear why the others were absent or if some of the suspects were tried in absentia.