CAIRO — An Egyptian court on Saturday confirmed the death sentences of more than 180 alleged Islamists, including the top leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, lawyers said.
Lawyers say the ruling can be overturned on appeal. It was not immediately clear how many sentences had been confirmed, with the attorneys giving estimates ranging from 182 to 197. In either case, it would be largest mass death sentence to be confirmed in Egypt in recent memory.
Lawyers boycotted the opening of the trial on March 25 to protest an earlier mass death sentence by Judge Said Youssef. A month after that session, the judge sentenced 683 people to death, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie. Of the 683, all but 110 were tried in absentia, according to defense lawyer Khaled el-Komi.
Death sentence issued for those in absentia are automatically cancelled in Egypt if they turn themselves in or are apprehended, and a retrial is ordered.
The case springs from an attack on a police station in the town of el-Adwa near the southern city of Minya on August 14, 2013, in which one policeman and one civilian were killed. The attack was carried out in retaliation after police killed hundreds while dispersing a sprawling Cairo sit-in by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, who hails from the Brotherhood.
The death sentences sparked international condemnation and raised questions about the independence of the judiciary.
Mohammed Tosson, representative of the defense team, said that 183 people were sentenced to death, four received life sentences and 496 were acquitted. Those sentenced to death include a Coptic Christian and a blind man, said another lawyer, Mohammed Abdel-Wahab.
The charges ranged from sabotage and terrorizing civilians to murder.
This is the second death sentence against Badie, who faces multiple charges linked to the violence that engulfed the country after the ouster of Morsi. The military forced Egypt’s first democratically elected leader from power last July after massive protests demanding his resignation.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.