Cairo: The Egyptian judge who sentenced to death hundreds of supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last month has issued a verdict Monday on another 683 people, including the leader of his Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammad Badie.
Monday’s hearing in a court in the southern province of Minya comes amid a brutal crackdown on supporters of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood since the military overthrew him last July amid massive protests calling for his resignation.
The hearing has come under the spotlight after the judge, Said Yousef Sabry, sentenced an earlier batch of 529 defendants to death in just two sessions last month. That verdict is open to appeal, but has outraged the United Nations and human rights groups.
The rioting erupted as news spread that police had killed hundreds of Morsi’s supporters while dispersing two Cairo protest camps.
The charges are similar to those faced by the 529 defendants.
Of the 683 accused, about 50 are in custody while the rest are either out on bail or on the run.
The judgement can be appealed at the Court of Cassation, which would probably order a new trial or reduce the sentences, legal expert Gamal Eid said.
Under Egyptian law, the court pronounces a death sentence and refers the case to the top Islamic scholar, who plays an advisory role. It then ratifies the sentence in a subsequent hearing.
Defence lawyers boycotted the last session, branding it “farcical” after the mass death sentencing which the United Nations denounced as a breach of international human rights law.
Defence lawyer Khaled Elkomy claims that 60 percent of the 529 defendants, including teachers and some doctors, have evidence that “proves they were not present the day they were accused of attacking the Matay police station” in Minya, a statement released by human rights group Avaaz said.
“This is not justice. It’s a hate-filled attack by the authorities on hundreds of their fellow citizens, whose families are living through heartbreak and terror,” Avaaz executive director Ricken Patel said in the statement.