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Egypt hands life sentence to Muslim Brotherhood leader for Hamas espionage

Mahmoud Ezzat found guilty of collaborating with Gaza-ruling terror group, after receiving a life term in a separate case

Mahmoud Ezzat, a top Muslim Brotherhood leader, left, and Mohammed Badie, leader of Muslim Brotherhood leave a press conference in Cairo, Egypt, on May 5, 2010. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)
Mahmoud Ezzat, a top Muslim Brotherhood leader, left, and Mohammed Badie, leader of Muslim Brotherhood leave a press conference in Cairo, Egypt, on May 5, 2010. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

CAIRO — Egypt sentenced Mahmoud Ezzat, the 77-year-old top leader of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, to life in jail Sunday after he was found guilty of “collaborating with Hamas,” a judicial source said.

The Islamist terror group Hamas controls the Gaza Strip and espouses the Brotherhood’s teachings. Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on the territory, saying it is needed to prevent Hamas from arming.

Earlier this year, Ezzat was given a separate life term on terrorism charges in another case.

Many of Egypt’s senior Brotherhood leaders, including the late president Mohamed Morsi, have had the same charges of espionage for a foreign agent leveled against them in recent years.

Sunday’s verdict handed down by a Cairo criminal court can be appealed, the source added.

Egypt has softened its stance toward Hamas after accusing it for years of smuggling weapons and insurgent fighters across the Rafah border to Egypt’s restive North Sinai.

In May, Egypt negotiated a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel after 11 days of heavy fighting that saw thousands of rockets fired at Israeli cities and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes. Cairo has also been heavily active in efforts to reconstruct parts of Gaza that were heavily damaged during that escalation.

Palestinian Hamas guards stand near an Egyptian watchtower on the border with Egypt in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. (AP/Hatem Moussa)

Ezzat was arrested in August 2020 in Cairo, after being on the run for several years.

In April 2021, he was sentenced to life imprisonment on terrorism charges in a separate case.

In 2015, Ezzat was sentenced in absentia to death, as well as given life imprisonment, after being found guilty of having supervised the killing of soldiers and government officials.

He was accused of involvement in the murder of the state prosecutor Hisham Barakat, who died in hospital after a car bomb tore through his convoy in Cairo in 2015.

The Brotherhood was blacklisted in Egypt in 2013 and deemed a terrorist group, months after the army overthrew Morsi who hailed from the movement.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was defense minister when Morsi was removed from power.

Founded in 1928, the Brotherhood later established itself as the main Islamist opposition movement in Egypt, and spread regionally with ardent offshoots from Tunisia to Turkey.

Ezzat is reported to have joined the Brotherhood in the 1960s, and spent time in jail under Egypt’s late presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak.

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