Middle East

Egypt court upholds Muslim Brotherhood death sentences

Supporters of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi burned a police station in Kerdasa,
Image caption More than 140 of the defendants are in custody over the attack at the Kerdasa police station

A court in Egypt has upheld death sentences on 183 Muslim Brotherhood supporters over a 2013 attack on a police station near Cairo.

The men were convicted over the deaths of at least 11 officers in Kerdasa.

The attack took place after Egyptian military forces cracked down on Islamist supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi that July.

Hundreds of death sentences have been passed on Mr Morsi's supporters but none has been carried out.

Human rights group Amnesty International says the death sentences follow grossly unfair trials and highlight Egypt's disregard for national and international law.

Image caption Egyptian security forces have often clashed with Muslim Brotherhood supporters in their stronghold of Kerdasa

Mr Morsi will face a new espionage trial on 15 February, Egypt's official Mena news agency says.

He and 10 others will be charged with leaking "classified documents" to Qatar and Qatari-based broadcaster al-Jazeera.

Mr Morsi is already facing three other trials, including another case of espionage. He too could be given the death penalty if found guilty.

Appeal still possible

More than 140 of the 188 defendants in the Kerdasa case are already in custody, while the rest have been sentenced in absentia.

The court also sentenced a minor to 10 years in prison in the case, and two other defendants were acquitted.

The verdict follows a recommendation by Egypt's top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, but it can be appealed against.

Image caption Hundreds of death sentences have been handed down against members of the Muslim Brotherhood

Last month, the death sentences of 37 people were overturned on appeal.

The defendants had been convicted of attacking a police station in Minya, south of Cairo, on the same day as the Kerdasa attack.

The violence came after security forces killed hundreds of people when they cleared protest camps set up in the capital by supporters of the ousted Islamist president, Mohammad Morsi.

The original trial also saw some 377 people sentenced to life in prison in absentia.

"[The] death sentences are yet another example of the bias of the Egyptian criminal justice system," Amnesty's Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, said in a statement in response to Monday's verdict.

"These verdicts and sentences must be quashed and all of those convicted should be given a trial that meets international standards of fairness and excludes the death penalty."

Mr Sahraoui said it would be wrong to impose capital punishment "when there are serious doubts hanging over the fairness of the trial" which "outrageously flouted" international law.

The United Nations has called the mass trials "unprecedented".

Mr Morsi was succeeded by President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, a former military chief who has been heavily criticised for his crackdown on Islamists.

Hundreds of people, mostly Islamists, have been killed since the army deposed Mr Morsi.

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