529 Morsi backers sentenced to death following 2 hearings
By Sarah Benhaida, AFP
March 25, 2014, 12:18 am TWN
CAIRO, Egypt--A court ordered the execution of 529 supporters of deposed Islamist president Mohammed Morsi after only two hearings on Monday, in the largest such sentencing in Egypt's modern history.
The unprecedented verdict, amid an extensive crackdown on Morsi supporters, is likely to be overturned on appeal, legal experts said.
The military-installed authorities have arrested thousands of Morsi supporters and put many of them on trial since the army deposed the Islamist on July 3.
The defendants in the southern province of Minya are part of a larger group of more than 1,200 alleged Islamists accused of killing policemen and rioting on Aug. 14, after police killed hundreds of protesters while dispersing two Cairo protest camps.
Of the 529 defendants sentenced, 153 are currently in detention and the rest were tried in absentia. They automatically get a new trial if they turn themselves in.
Another 17 defendants were acquitted.
The verdict can be appealed at the Court of Cassation, which would probably order a new trial or reduce the sentences, legal expert Gamal Eid said.
"This sentencing is a catastrophe and a travesty and a scandal that will affect Egypt for many years," said Eid, who heads the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.
'Judge rammed sentencing through'
In Monday's session, the court referred its decision to the mufti, the government's official interpreter of Islamic law, for ratification. The mufti has upheld death sentences in the past.
Defense lawyer Mohamed Tousson said the judge rammed through the sentencing after he was angered by a lawyer who demanded his recusal in the first session.
"He didn't even ascertain the presence of the detained defendants, he only got to the 51st defendant," Tousson said.