An Egyptian court has sentenced 37 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death while recommending the death sentence for 682 others, judicial sources said, in a ruling that the United States urged should be reversed.
Attorney Ahmed Hefni told reporters outside the court in the southern city of Minya on Monday that the “recommended” death sentences for 682 Brotherhood supporters first have to be approved by Egypt's mufti, the top Islamic official - a step that is usually considered a formality.
The case is linked to deadly riots that erupted in Minya and elsewhere in Egypt after security forces violently disbanded sit-ins held by Brotherhood supporters in Cairo last August.
The same court also reversed 492 death sentences out of 529 it passed in March, commuting most of the death sentences to life in prison.
The court is seeking the death penalty for Mohammad Badie, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s general guide, in a move that is tipped to raise tension in Egypt which has grappled with insecurity since the army ousted Islamist President Mohammad Mursi in July.
Badie defied a death sentence handed down against him on Monday, saying he would keep pursuing his cause, a son of Mursi quoted him as saying.
“If they executed me one thousand times I will not retreat from the right path,” Badie was quoted as saying by lawyer Osama Mursi, who attended one of his trials in Cairo.
The comments were published on Osama Mursi’s Facebook page.
Also Monday, an Egyptian court banned a pro-democracy movement that helped ignite the uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, judicial sources and the website of the state-run al-Ahram newspaper said.
The ruling banning the activities of the April 6 movement follows the imprisonment of three of its leading members last year on charges of protesting illegally. The charges against April 6 included "damaging the image of the state", according to the al-Ahram report.
U.S. Urges Rulings be Reversed
The United States expressed “deep concern” over both cases and urged that they be reversed.
“The United States is deeply concerned by today’s Egyptian court actions related to another mass trial and preliminary death sentences as well as the banning of the April 6 Youth Movement activities,” State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement.
“Today’s preliminary death sentences against 683 defendants and the upholding of death sentences against 37 defendants from a March 25 decision are unconscionable,” Psaki said.
The State Department urged Egyptian authorities to “reverse these court rulings and ensure due process for the accused on the merits of individual cases,” noting that it was “impossible to believe that such proceedings could satisfy even the most basic standards of justice.”
Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is “alarmed” by the sentence, his spokesman said.
“Verdicts that clearly appear not to meet basic fair trial standards, particularly those which impose the death penalty, are likely to undermine prospects for long-term stability,” Ban added, according to spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
Dujarric said the U.N. chief was “conscious of the regional and security implications of such sentences,” adding that “stability in Egypt is essential for the overall stability of the entire North Africa and Middle East region.”
(With Reuters and the Associated Press)