U.S. ‘concerned’ over Mursi death sentence

Former Egyptian president and 105 other members of the Muslim Brotherhood were trialed in connection with a mass jail break

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The United States is "deeply concerned" about an Egyptian court decision to seek the death penalty for former President Mohammad Mursi, a State Department official said on Sunday.

"We are deeply concerned by yet another mass death sentence handed down by an Egyptian court to more than 100 defendants, including former President Mursi," the official said after the court's ruling was announced on Saturday, drawing condemnation from rights group Amnesty International.

"We have consistently spoken out against the practice of mass trials and sentences, which are conducted in a manner that is inconsistent with Egypt's international obligations and the rule of law," the official said.

Mursi and 105 other members of the Muslim Brotherhood were trialed in connection with a mass jail break in 2011.

Many of those sentenced were tried in absentia, including prominent Islamic cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi who resides in Qatar.

The court also sought the death sentence against one of the Muslim Brotherhood's top leaders, Khairat el-Shater, for conspiring with foreign militant groups against the country, part of a crackdown on Islamists.

Following the announcement, Amnesty International called the court's decision “a charade based on null and void procedures” and demanded his release or retrial in a civilian court.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan criticized Egypt over the court decision and accused the West of hypocrisy, the state-run Anatolian news agency reported.

“While the West is abolishing the death penalty, they are just watching the continuation of death sentences in Egypt. They don't do anything about it,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.

Mursi, Egypt's first freely elected president, was ousted by the military in July 2013 following days of mass street protests by Egyptians demanding that he be removed because of his divisive policies.

The ousted leader already is serving a 20-year sentence following his conviction on April 21 on charges linked to the killing of protesters outside a Cairo presidential palace in December 2012.

The cases, like any capital sentence, will be referred to Egypt’s top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, for an opinion before any executions can take place.

A final decision is expected on June 2.

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