Egypt sentences four Muslim Brotherhood members to death

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Published Sunday, December 7, 2014

An Egyptian court on Sunday sentenced to death four members of the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood over the killing of protesters who stormed the group's Cairo headquarters in June last year.

A crowd of angry protesters stormed and torched the headquarters on June 30, 2013, as millions took to the streets in Cairo and other cities demanding Islamist president Mohammed Mursi's resignation.

Mursi, who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, was ousted just days later by then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi after one year in office.

A Cairo court sentenced the four men to death after finding them guilty of "killing, inciting to kill, possessing guns and live ammunition and joining armed groups to terrorise people," a judicial official said.

Prosecutors said 12 protesters were killed when they clashed with Mursi supporters during the storming of the offices. More than 90 protesters were wounded.

Sunday's sentences are preliminary and will be forwarded to the country's mufti, or top Muslim cleric, to be ratified.

Decisions on 14 other defendants in the case, including Muslim Brotherhood chief Mohammed Badie and his deputies Khairat al-Shater and Saad al-Katatni, will be made at the next hearing on February 28, the official said.

All the defendants were present in court on Sunday.

Badie and his two deputies along with Mursi are facing several other trials. Badie has already been sentenced to death in one case and to life in prison in three others.

Following the ouster of Mursi, authorities banned association to the Brotherhood, Egypt’s oldest Islamist movement, and launched a heavy cracked down on its members, leaving at least 1,400 dead and 15,000 jailed, including hundreds sentenced to death for allegedly taking part in deadly riots in August 2013.

In November, Egypt was brought in front of the UN’s top human rights body for a litany of rights abuses, including its crackdown, mass arrests and unfair trials targeting mainly Mursi supporters, journalists and activists, described as “unprecedented in recent history.”

Besides Islamists, many of the leading secular activists behind the 2011 uprising which ousted former President Hosni Mubarak have also found themselves on the wrong side of the new political leadership, getting locked up for taking part in peaceful demonstrations following a recent ban on unlicensed protests.

The Protest Law (107 of 2013) “allows the security forces to use firearms against peaceful protestors.”

Late October, Sisi approved of a military decree, similar to Mubarak’s martial law, to expand military power under the title of “ensuring stability,” that categorizes state institutions as military facilities and considers attacks against these facilities as a crime against the armed forces.

Ending martial law throughout the country, which gives the authorities wide-ranging policing powers, was one of the demands of the popular uprisings, but the decrees eroded hopes among liberals that Egypt's second uprising would finish the job begun with Mubarak's ouster in 2011.

This weekend, a court dismissed charges against Mubarak for ordering security forces to kill protesters during the 2011 uprising.

That verdict, and others handed down to Mubarak-era figures, has led some to conclude that the old regime that existed before either revolution is back in all but name.

International rights groups have raised concerns about the court rulings, in particular mass death sentences, accusing the judiciary of taking sides and not conducting fair trials.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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