Egyptian court confirms death sentence on Brotherhood leader

The leader and members of the Brotherhood were charged over violence in Egypt's Minya

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An Egypt court confirmed a death sentence against the supreme leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and at least 182 of his supporters, judicial sources told Reuters on Saturday.

The court's decision came two months after it referred the case against the Mohammad Badie, general guide to the outlawed group, and hundreds of others to the Mufti, Egypt’s highest religious authority, and the first step towards imposing a death sentence.

The defendants were charged over violence which erupted in the southern town of Minya last August, following the military-led ouster of Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohammad Mursi.

One senior police officer was killed in the violence.

Rights group Amnesty International condemned the court’s decision, and accused the judiciary of losing “resemblance of impartiality,” AFP reported Saturday.

“In recent months Egyptian courts appear to have handed out death sentences at the drop of a hat,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said.

"The death penalty is being ruthlessly deployed as a tool to eliminate political opponents,” she added, saying that authorities must “quash these sentences and order a fair retrial."

The court had originally sentenced 683 people to death, but commuted the death sentence of four defendants – including two women – to life in prison, and acquitted 496 others, prosecutor Abdel Rahim Abdel Malik told AFP.

The sentence came just two weeks after former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led Mursi’s overthrow, took office as president after winning an election in May.

Mursi’s overthrow was followed by mass protests and demonstrations by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and his supporters, Security forces met the protests with a fierce crackdown, killing hundreds of Islamists and jailing thousands.

Hundreds of Mursi supporters had been sentenced to death in trials that were roundly criticized by human rights watchdogs.

(With Reuters and AFP)