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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 13 November 2018

Egypt sentences 75 Morsi supporters to death over 2013 protest

More than 660 others have yet to learn their fate

Judge Hassan Farid, centre, speaks during a verdict session in the trial against top leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood group and others in Cairo. EPA
Judge Hassan Farid, centre, speaks during a verdict session in the trial against top leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood group and others in Cairo. EPA

An Egyptian court has sentenced to death 75 people, including top members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, for a 2013 sit-in at Cairo's Rabaa Square.

The convictions are part of a trial involving 739 people relating to the 2013 sit-in in support of oustered Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.

Mr Morsi was toppled by the military in July 2013 following widespread public protests demanding his resignation. After Minister of Defence Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was installed as president, supporters of Mr Morsi staged ongoing protests demanding his reinstatement.

The largest such protest was a sit-in at Rabaa Al Adawiya in the east Cairo neighbourhood of Nasr City. In August 2013, hundreds of people were killed when security forces broke up the sit-in, and another one in Giza.

Human rights groups slammed the massacre the August 2013 as one of the world's largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history.

Egyptian officials defended the clearance operations, saying protesters were given the opportunity to leave peacefully and claiming that armed elements within the Muslim Brotherhood initiated the violence.

Since then, the Egyptian government has waged an ongoing crackdown on dissenters, ranging from civil society activists to members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt outlawed as as terrorist organisation.

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Sentencing for the more than 660 remaining defendants was set for September 8, according to state-run Al-Ahram news website. Those awaiting sentencing include the Muslim Brotherhood's Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie and award-winning photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, also known as Shawkan. Charges range from murder to damaging public property.

Egyptian law requires any capital sentence to be referred to Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam, Egypt’s highest Islamic legal official, for an opinion before any execution can take place.

Human rights groups have condemned the mass trial.

“The idea that more than 700 people could all stand trial together in one day, all facing the death penalty in what is clearly a grossly unfair trial that violates Egypt’s own constitution beggars belief,” said Amnesty International’s North African campaigns director Najia Bounaim.

The sentencing coincides with the anniversary of mass protests against Mr Morsi's one-year rule in 2013, which prompted the army to move against him.