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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Egypt sentences 75 to death over 2013 Cairo protests

More than 600 others hands jail terms over violence at Rabaa Al Adawiya and Nahda Square

Defendants sit in the soundproof glass dock during a mass trial over 2013 protests in Cairo, on September 8. AFP
Defendants sit in the soundproof glass dock during a mass trial over 2013 protests in Cairo, on September 8. AFP

An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced 75 people to death and more than 600 others to jail terms in a mass trial over protests in Cairo in 2013 in which hundreds of people died in clashes with security forces.

Three senior members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Al Baltagui, Issam Al Aryan and Safwat Hijazi, were among the defendants sentenced to death. Of the 75, 44 were in the dock, while the rest were tried in their absence.

Among those jailed was award-winning photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, who received a five-year sentence. Forty-seven defendants were handed life sentences, while 347 were given 15 years in prison, and 22 minors received 10-year terms. Five-year terms were handed to 215 people.

The court also sentenced the son of former president and Muslim Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi, Ossama, to 10 years in jail.

Most of 739 defendants on trial faced charges of killing police and vandalising property during the clashes.

On August 14, 2013, a month after the army removed Mr Morsi from office, police moved to disperse a sprawling Islamist protest camp at Rabaa Al Adawiya square in Cairo. About 700 people were killed within hours at Rabaa Al Adawiya and Nahda Square, where another sit-in was being held. Hundreds more were killed in street clashes with police in the months that followed.

Abu Zeid, who earlier this year received Unesco's World Freedom Prize, was arrested in August 2013 as he covered the clashes and was accused of "murder and membership of a terrorist organisation" – charges that can carry the death penalty.

His lawyer Karim Abdelrady said Abu Zeid was expected to be freed within a few days because he had already spent five years in jail.

Mr Abdelrady said the sentence was unfair because Abu Zeid was only doing his job in covering the events unfolding in the Egyptian capital, and he would launch a new legal bid to recognise the innocence of his client.

Amnesty International condemned the death sentences and "heavy" prison terms imposed by the court on Saturday and called for a retrial in front of an "impartial court". The rights group pointed out that "not a single police officer has been brought to account".

Egypt's courts have sentenced hundreds of people to death or handed them lengthy jail terms in other mass trials, including Mr Morsi and several leaders of his Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Rights groups say at least 40,000 people were arrested in the first year after the army removed Mr Morsi from office on July 3, 2013, following mass protests against his rule.

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, who was armed forces chief at the time, won the presidency the following year. He won re-election in March with 97 per cent of the vote against a single opponent widely seen as a token challenger.

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