CAIRO: Amid unprecedented heavy security in Minya governorate Friday, Judge Saeed Youssef of the Minya Criminal Court sentenced 183 defendants—including Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie—to death after reviewing the opinion of Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam in the cases of 683 defendants sentenced in the trial.
Acquittals were given to 496 defendants and four were given life sentences. The Beni Suef Appeals Court previously scheduled July 12 to deliberate the suspects’ defense to change the panel of judges assigned to the case. The defendants’ lawyer Mohamed Toson told Youm7 Saturday the defense team will appeal against the death sentences before they can be carried out.
Judges Union head Ahmed el-Zend said in a press conference that 608 of the defendants were tried in absentia. It is custom in Egyptian law that fugitives are handed the maximum penalty until they appear in court, in which case they are retried.
The defendants also include Mamdouh Ammar, director of the MB’s administrative office and former undersecretary of the Ministry of Education, former MP Mohamed Marzouq, former head of the Teachers Syndicate Shabaan Omar, secretary of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in Edwa Mohamed Hassan and FJP Party Secretary Sobhi Habib.
Recent mass death sentences
Minya is reportedly the city that witnessed the most civic violence, sectarian attacks and damage to public and private property following the bloody dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adaweya sit-in on Aug. 14, 2013.
The same judge previously referred the files of 528 other MB members and supporters to the grand mufti in a similar case in March, but the alleged crimes in that incident took place in Matay, a different city in the governorate.
Youssef confirmed the death sentence for 37 people in that case after he received the grand mufti’s opinion in April, and commuted the sentences of the remaining defendants to 25 years in prison.
Ahmed Shibaib, the lawyer of the defendants in the Matay case, told Youm7 in March that only 130 of the 528 were in custody. The verdict is being appealed.
Giza Criminal Court Thursday referred the files of Badie, MB Secretary General and former parliamentarian Mohamed Beltagy, former Minister of Supply Bassem Ouda, MB preacher Safwat Higazy, fugitive spokesperson of the jihadist Gamaa Islamiyya Assem Abdel Maged and nine others to Allam for a review of their death sentences.
They are charged with inciting civic violence on July 22 around Istiqama Mosque in Giza, 19 days after former President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster in 2013. The clashes resulted in the deaths of 10 people.
On June 18, the same court referred the files of 12 out of 23 defendants to Allam over charges relating to the premeditated murder of senior police officer Nabil Farag, whose death was caught on camera in September. The court will issue a ruling concerning the remaining 11 defendants on Aug. 6.
Four of the 12 sentenced to death in this case are at large, and eight of the 11 others were also tried in absentia.
Farag was shot dead on Sep. 19 during a police raid in the town of Kerdasa after it was seized by militants Aug. 14. The militants killed 11 police officers at Kerdasa Police Station. Graphic videos of the officers’ dead bodies were uploaded to YouTube after the killing. In one of the videos, a man shoots the dead body of an officer.
In another case, Shubra Criminal Court referred the files of 10 fugitive defendants to Allam over charges of inciting civic violence that caused the death of at least two people in July 2013 in the town of Qalyub in Qalyubia governorate.
Abdel Rahman al-Barr, an Al-Azhar scholar who had been nominated by the MB to be the country’s grand mufti, is among the 10 sentenced.
The case involves 37 others, including Badie, Beltagy, Hegazy and Ouda, and a ruling is scheduled to be issued on July 5.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) issued a report June 18, in which it said the State’s use of excessive force, failure to prevent anticipated sectarian attacks and to intervene to control civic violence makes it bear the primary responsibility for “what may be the worst acts of violence in the country’s modern history.”
The report claimed that the absence of the State was a primary factor for the escalation and prolonging of violence between anti- and pro-Morsi protesters and the residents of the neighborhoods they passed through. It noted that a wide variety of weapons were used by civilians in these clashes, including live ammunition.
Egypt’s mass death sentences have been slammed by local and international human rights organizations and governments, but state officials have reiterated that the judiciary is independent and that they cannot interfere in its rulings.