Egyptian Court Passes Death Sentence to 700 Alleged Morsi Supporters, Civil War Looms?

  on April 29 2014 1:21 PM
  • Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi (L) and Defence Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) attend a news conference on the release of the soldiers who were kidnapped last week, in Cairo in this May 22, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Stringer
    Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi (L) and Defence Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) attend a news conference on the release of the soldiers who were kidnapped last week, in Cairo in this May 22, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Stringer
  • Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie shouts slogans from the defendant's cage during his trial with other leaders of the Brotherhood in a courtroom in Cairo December 11, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer
    Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie shouts slogans from the defendant's cage during his trial with other leaders of the Brotherhood in a courtroom in Cairo December 11, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer
  • The mother of an accused supporter of ousted President Mohamed Mursi reacts in front of the court in Minya, south of Cairo, after hearing the sentence handed to Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie and other Brotherhood supporters April 28, 2014. An Eg
    The mother of an accused supporter of ousted President Mohamed Mursi reacts in front of the court in Minya, south of Cairo, after hearing the sentence handed to Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie and other Brotherhood supporters April 28, 2014. An Egyptian court handed down a death sentence to Badie, the Brotherhood's general guide, and 682 supporters, intensifying a crackdown on the movement that could trigger protests and political violence ahead of an election next month. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
  • Security forces and riot police stand guard in front of relatives and families of members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi, as the sentence is handed to Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie and other Brotherhoo
    Security forces and riot police stand guard in front of relatives and families of members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi, as the sentence is handed to Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie and other Brotherhood supporters, at the court in Minya April 28, 2014. An Egyptian court handed down a death sentence to Badie, the Brotherhood's general guide, and 682 supporters, intensifying a crackdown on the movement that could trigger protests and political violence ahead of an election next month. after hearing the sentence in front of the court in Minya about 406 km, 252 miles south of the capital Cairo, April 28, 2014. An Egyptian court has recommended the death sentence for the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and 682 supporters, and handed down a final capital punishment ruling for 37 others, judicial sources said on Monday. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
1 of 4

Relatives and families of the 683 people sentenced to death by an Egyptian court warned the government Egypt faces a probable civil war uprising if it continues with its mass trial and collective executions.

"There is no evidence whatsoever," Mohammed Hassan Shehata, whose son Mahmoud was among those facing the death sentence. "If my son is guilty, behead him but if he is innocent, there will be a civil war." He said his son Mahmoud was arrested in January, six months after the alleged violence he was charged with.

The 683 people were alleged supporters of the country's ousted Islamist president. The spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohammed Badie, have been included in the summary execution handed down on Monday by Judge Said Youssef.

The large group were charged against the attack that occurred in a police station in Minya in 2013. A policeman was killed from the incident.

The ruling will still need to be referred to the Grand Mufti, a requirement under Egyptian law. However such act is considered more as a formality and may not be instrumental to revert the court's decision.

"If the Grand Mufti upholds the death sentences for all or recommends reversing them, it won't mean anything to the judge," an unidentified judicial official told AP. "Only the judge has the right and the power to reverse his earlier decisions."

Ali Kamal, counsel for all the accused, blasted the way the supposed hearing transpired on Monday. It only lasted only eight minutes, he said. Families and media were barred from attending the proceedings. Security forces surrounded the court building and blocked roads. Next thing they knew, the death verdict has been handed down.

"This is against the spirit of the law," Kamal said.

Parts of the evidences lodged against the defendants, which faced nearly 14 charges, five of them punishable by death, mostly consisted of footage showing them attacking and looting a police station in Cairo. They were also seen on video setting fire to several government buildings.

"This is a public opinion case, there must be a swift, deterrent punishment," the unidentified judicial official said. "Yes, the verdict is very harsh, the number of people on trial is shocking, but it's proportional to the crimes."

Egyptian as well as international rights groups however blasted the ruling because it was handed down after only one hearing, with the defense never having the opportunity to present its case.

"The decisions are possibly the largest possible death sentences in recent world history. While they're exceptional in scale, they're certainly not exceptional in kind," Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director for Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch, said. "It seems that these sentences are aimed at striking fear and terror into the hearts of those who oppose the interim government."

"This judge is a butcher," one of the relatives facing the death penalty said.

Join the Discussion