Mohammed Morsi: Egypt's former president given life in spying case

Mohammed Morsi, wearing a red uniform, looks on from behind bars during his trial on espionage charges at a court in Cairo on June 18, 2016.Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Mohammed Morsi was in court in Cairo for the sentencing

The Islamist former President of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, has been sentenced to life in prison at the end of an espionage trial.

He was one of a number of defendants accused of passing documents to Qatar.

Morsi's lawyer told AFP that he had been acquitted of spying in this case, but convicted of leading an illegal organisation.

Six others on trial, including two journalists for the broadcaster al-Jazeera, were sentenced to death.

The two journalists were not in court and were sentenced to death in absentia.

Morsi was deposed in 2013. He has already been given a life sentence and condemned to death in earlier, separate court cases.

All of the rulings can still be appealed.

They come against a background of scathing criticism of the Egyptian judicial system by international human rights activists.

Tens of thousands of people are believed to have been jailed by Egyptian authorities, most of them supporters of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, since the former president was overthrown following mass protests against his rule.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Defendants in the case flash the four-fingered salute of the Muslim Brotherhood in court

Al-Jazeera says Ibrahim Helal, its former head of news in Arabic, and Alaa Sablan, who was employed by the news organisation until last year, were among those sentenced to death.

The Doha-based channel also said a journalist with the pro-Muslim Brotherhood Rassd News Network was given a death sentence.

Egyptian authorities have accused al-Jazeera of serving as the mouthpiece for the Muslim Brotherhood and for Morsi. Qatar backed the Brotherhood, and its ruling family partly funds the news channel.

Three journalists from al-Jazeera, including the Australian Peter Greste, a former BBC correspondent, arrested in 2013, were jailed for broadcasting false news following two trials in Cairo. Their case caused an international outcry. All three men have since been released.