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Egypt court quashes Morsi life sentence over Hamas espionage

In second legal victory for deposed president, appeals bench overturns prison term, orders retrial on charges he spied for Iran and Palestinian terror group

Former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi in a makeshift courtroom at the national police academy, in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, June 18, 2016. (AP/Amr Nabil)
Former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi in a makeshift courtroom at the national police academy, in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, June 18, 2016. (AP/Amr Nabil)

CAIRO, Egypt — An Egyptian appeals court on Tuesday quashed one of two life sentences handed down against ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi since his 2013 overthrow, his lawyer and a judicial source said.

The Court of Cassation overturned sentences against the former leader and several Muslim Brotherhood officials who stood trial alongside him on charges of spying for Iran and Palestinian terror group Hamas, lawyer Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsoud told AFP.

The court ordered a retrial, Abdel Maqsoud said, adding: “The verdict was full of legal flaws.”

Hamas issued a statement praising the court ruling and saying it reflected the importance of the Palestinian cause for Egypt.

“We appreciate the Egyptian decision to cancel the sentences related to charges of spying with Hamas,” the statement read.

The ruling is the second appeals victory in a week for Morsi, whose Muslim Brotherhood movement has been blacklisted and subjected to a crackdown that has killed hundreds of his supporters and seen thousands jailed or sentenced to death.

Last week, the same court overturned a death sentence handed down against him on charges of taking part in prison breaks and violence against policemen during a 2011 uprising that toppled longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak.

The courts’ handling of the cases against Morsi and his supporters, many of whom have been convicted after mass trials lasting just days, has drawn criticism from the United Nations, Western governments and human rights groups.

Starting next Monday, the same court will begin to review a second life sentence handed down against Morsi in a separate trial on charges of stealing documents relating to national security and handing them over to Qatar, a longstanding supporter of the Brotherhood.

Last month, it upheld a 20-year jail sentence handed down against Morsi on charges of ordering the use of deadly force against protesters during his year in power.

Last week’s decision quashing the death sentence enabled Morsi to stop wearing the red uniform reserved for death row prisoners, his lawyer said.

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie stands behind bars during his trial in Cairo on February 28, 2015 (Photo credit: Mohamed el-Shahed)
Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie stands behind bars during his trial in Cairo on February 28, 2015 (Photo credit: Mohamed el-Shahed)

Five co-defendants, including Brotherhood supreme guide Mohammed Badie, who also received death sentences, are to be retried too.

Morsi was Egypt’s first freely elected leader but his year in power proved deeply divisive and he was overthrown by then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi following mass street protests.

Dov Lieber contributed to this report.

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