Mohamed Morsi the ousted Islamist president was able on Tuesday to escape a death sentence when a criminal court in Egypt sentenced him to a prison term of 20 years in connection with a protest episode that turned deadly while he was still in office.
It was just the first in what is expected to be a series of court verdicts and subsequent sentences for the former president, who was ousted during a military coup in July of 2013 led by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi the current Egyptian President and was formerly the defense minister.
Morsi has been in jail since being ousted and faces a number of other cases that could result in a death sentence.
Morsi has been out of office for 22 months and over that period, el-Sisi carried out a harsh crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood that at one time was one of the largest political movements in Egypt.
Thousands of members of the Muslim Brotherhood or its supporters have been jailed and hundreds others including some of the top deputies under Morsi have received either long prison sentences or a death sentence.
Hundreds of more supporters for Morsi were killed during street protests following his ouster. The government of Egypt has made unauthorized demonstrations a criminal offense and police are routinely using deadly force against many protesters.
Morsi was the first democratically elected leader in Egypt. He insists he is the legitimate president of Egypt and will not recognize the authority of the court. He was given the opportunity to speak in his defense in January at one of his court appearances, but other than that has been for the most part kept silent, making his court appearances inside a glassed-in cage that is soundproof.
On Tuesday, he arrived by helicopter, flown from a high security prison. The Brotherhood was given the label of being a terror organization by authorities in Egypt, although it denies involvement with violence.
In Tuesday’s ruling, Morsi and 14 co-defendants received acquittals of the serious charges of premeditated murder and possessing weapons. His sentence of 20 years was for being convicted of inciting violence as well as torture.