Egypt mass deaths: Muslim brotherhood leader Badie among hundreds sentenced to death

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An Egyptian judge sentenced 683 alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death on Monday, including the group’s leader Mohamed Badie.

The convictions are linked to riots that took place in the southern city of Minya and elsewhere in Egypt, after security forces disbanded sit-ins held by alleged party supporters in the capital Cairo last August.

Hundreds of people were killed as part of the crackdown on pro-President Mohammed Morsi activists, after he was removed by the military last July.

Since then, around 16,000 people have been arrested, including most of the group's top leaders. Large numbers of pro-Morsi protesters have also been detained by police.

Lawyer Ahmed Hefni told reporters outside the court on Monday that the death sentences must be approved by Egypt's mufti, the top Islamic official. However, his opinion is not legally binding, and is instead considered a formality.

After his decision is made, the court will hold another session on 21 June to issue the final verdicts.

On Monday, security forces surrounded the court building and blocked roads to families and media from attending the proceedings.

Lawyer Ali Kamal, told reporters that the hearing lasted only eight minutes.

“This is against the spirit of the law. The verdicts will be easily appealed,” said Mr Kamal.

Judge Said Youssef also replaced 490 death sentences with life imprisonment on Monday, following a ruling last month which saw 529 people condemned to death.

At the time, the court was heavily criticised by the UN, the US and the EU.

Amnesty International called the sentences “grotesque” and Egyptian rights groups were stunned at the swift verdicts, passed after only one hearing — and without defense presenting its case.

If the use of the death penalty against the Brotherhood’s general guide is confirmed, he would become the most senior figure in the party to be sentenced to death since one of the group's leading ideologues, Sayed Qutb, was executed in 1966.

The likely move is expected to raise tensions in Egypt, which has been in turmoil following ousting of then-President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Additional reporting by agencies