Monday, July 26, 2021

Egypt court upholds life sentences for 10 Muslim Brotherhood leaders

Egyptian trials and death sentences for Islamist extremists have consistently drawn scathing criticism from rights groups as a mockery of justice.

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Egypt’s highest appeals court upheld on Sunday the sentencing of 10 leaders of Egypt’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, including the group’s head, to life imprisonment, the state-owned Mena news agency reported.

In 2019, a Cairo criminal court found all 10, including the group’s Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, guilty of charges related to killing policemen and organising mass jail breaks during Egypt’s 2011 uprising. That revolt culminated in the ouster of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

The defendants were found guilty of helping around 20,000 prisoners escape, and of undermining national security by conspiring with foreign militant groups – the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

At the same time, the Court of Cassation acquitted eight middle-rank leaders of the organisation, who had been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

All of the sentences, which the court considered on appeal, are final.

This is the latest of several life sentences for Muslim Brotherhood leaders who stood several trials since the crackdown on the group in 2013 following the military ouster of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, the late Mohammed Morsi.

Morsi had hailed from the group’s ranks but his one-year rule had proven divisive and provoked nationwide protests.

Tens of thousands of Egyptians have been arrested since 2013, and many more have fled the country. Morsi himself was a defendant in the prison-break case, but he collapsed in a courtroom and died while appearing in a separate trial in summer 2019.

A judge eventually dropped the charges against Morsi, who in 2011 escaped with other Brotherhood leaders two days after they were detained amid a crackdown by Mubarak’s security forces trying to undercut the planned protests.

The trials and death sentences have consistently drawn scathing criticism from rights groups at home and abroad, which call the process a mockery of justice.

The Court of Cassation is the court of last resort or the supreme court in Egypt. It consists of 450 judges and appeals to it are limited to issues of law, although judgments unsupported by sufficient evidence can be and sometimes are reversed.

In June, the court upheld death sentences for 12 Muslim Brotherhood members, including several senior leaders of the outlawed Islamist movement.

It also reduced death sentences for 31 other Brotherhood members, in a trial relating to a 2013 killing by security forces at an Islamist sit-in, to life in prison.

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