Court in Egypt Sentences 529 Supporters of Morsi to Death

An Egyptian court has sentenced 529 people to death. Those sentenced to death are all supporters of Mohammed Morsi, the ousted President of Egypt, who is Islamist.

The 529 were found guilty of the murder of a police officer and for attacking police. The 529 were convicted after just two sessions in one of the biggest mass trials in decades in the Arab country.

The guilty verdicts can be appealed and likely would be overturned, said a rights lawyer.

However, the harshness and swiftness of the verdicts on such a grand scale underlines the extent of which the courts in Egypt have become politicized and that due process is being ignored amidst a huge crackdown on the supporters of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood since July 3 of last year when the military ousted Morsi from the presidency.

The first session of the two in the trial in a courtroom south of Cairo in Minya, saw arguments as the judge rejected requests angrily that had been made by lawyers for the defense for additional time to look over the trial documents for the large number of defendants.

In the session on Monday, when the verdicts then sentences were announced, security in the court barred the lawyers from the defense from taking part in the session.

One defense lawyer who also is the head of a Cairo rights centers, said the verdicts were unacceptable turning the judiciary system in Egypt from a tool used to achieve justice to an instrument used for carrying out revenge.

The verdict, said the lawyer, could be a precedent in both the history of courts in Egypt and quite possibly in tribunals around the world.

All but 150 of the people on trail in this case were tried in absentia. Sixteen of the defendants were acquitted.

Egypt has carried out a series of mass trials involving the supporters of Morsi over the past few weeks. The defendants are usually charged with violence that was in connection to the protests by Islamists against the removal of Morsi and the military crackdown.

The defendants, 545 in all had been charged with stealing weapons owned by the government, attempted murder and murder involving an attack that took place in Matay last August at a police station that killed one officer.

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