Turkey raises ‘democracy concerns’ over Mursi’s sentencing

Mursi was sentenced on Tuesday to 20 years in prison without parole on charges of stemming from killing protesters in 2012

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Turkey’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday Egypt should free former Islamist President Mohammad Mursi from jail and lift death sentences against his supporters before Ankara could consider an improved relations with Cairo.

“The judicial ruling concerning former President Mursi ... increases the concerns regarding the future of democracy in Egypt,” the foreign ministry statement said.

Mursi was sentenced on Tuesday to 20 years in prison without parole on charges of stemming from killing protesters during demonstrations outside the presidential palace in 2012.

Nearly three years after Mursi became Egypt’s first freely elected president, he stood in a cage in court with 12 fellow Brotherhood members, who were all acquitted of murder charges, escaping the death sentence.

Mursi’s legal team have said they will appeal.

The former president was ousted by the Egyptian military in July 2013 following mass street protests against his rule.

It is the first verdict he has received since his overthrow and is one of several trials he faces.

Mursi stood accused of inciting supporters to kill a journalist and opposition protesters in clashes in late 2012. As protestors gathered outside the palace, Mursi ordered the police to defuse them.

Mass arrests

The police refused, so the Muslim Brotherhood brought in their own supporters, causing eleven people to die in the clashes, mostly from the Brotherhood.

Following his ouster, Egyptian authorities banned the Muslim Brotherhood movement, with thousands of its supporters being arrested.

Previous ties between Turkey and Egypt have been strained since then Egyptian army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi toppled elected President Mursi after mass protests against his rule.

One of the fiercest crackdowns was then enforced by Egyptian security against the Islamist movement, killings hundreds of supporters at a Cairo protest camp with thousands arrested.

“Mr. Mursi is a president elected by 52 percent of the votes. They should give him his freedom,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted by Turkish newspapers last week.

Meanwhile, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters last week: “Mr. Mursi, like all other defendants, must be afforded the basic legal right of due process. And the United States continues to be strongly opposed to politicized arrests and detentions.”

Following the verdict, Amnesty International described the ruling as “a travesty of justice” that “shatters any remaining illusion of independence and impartiality in Egypt’s criminal justice system.”

The group called for Mursi to be retried in a civilian court “in line with international standards.”