Egypt sentences 528 supporters of President Mohammed Morsi to death: ‘Sentences handed out like small change’

Outrage as court hands out the biggest mass death sentence in recent history to alleged members of the Muslim Brotherhood

Cairo

An Egyptian court has sentenced 528 alleged supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood to death, in the largest mass death sentence handed down in recent history, anywhere in the world.

The sentence is the latest blow in a crackdown which has sent the Brotherhood reeling since the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi – a prominent member of the organisation – in July last year.

Defence lawyers at the court in Minya, south of the capital, Cairo, claimed they were neither given time to review the evidence against their clients, nor cross-examine witnesses for the prosecution.

One of those sentenced to death, accused of a violent attack on a police station which left one officer dead, was Assem Mohamed Ahmed, a 34-year-old man paralysed on one side of his body, according to his brother Ahmed Mohammed, a mechanic.

 

Assem is one of more than 400 of the defendants who are not currently in detention. Another is Sayyef Gamal, 20, a medical student at Minya University, who said that he could not have participated in the attack on the police station in Minya, Upper Egypt, because at the time it occurred, in mid-August last year, he was fleeing police attacking a sit-in in Cairo, several hundred miles away.

That sit-in, calling for the return of Morsi, was cleared on 14 August, leading to the deaths of more than 900 people. The violence of the clearing sparked attacks on both police and Christians in Minya and elsewhere, including the attack which Sayyef is now accused of participating in.

Sayyef now moves discreetly between safe houses, watching the news, and hoping for a reversal of the verdict at a retrial.

A senior Brotherhood figure, Ibrahim Moneir, denounced the verdicts, warning that abuses of justice will fuel a backlash against the military-backed government that replaced Morsi.

“Now the coup is hanging itself by these void measures,” he said, speaking to the Qatari-based Al Jazeera television channel.

The sentence was being viewed as exceptionally harsh, even in Egypt’s polarised climate. But some lawyers support the judge’s decision.

“It’s good that terrorists be sentenced to death,” said Gamil Dorgham, a Cairo-based lawyer.

Read more: Egypt admits jailing 16,000 Islamists in eight months
Lawyers for deposed Egyptian president walk out
If only Blair could grasp the truth about Field Marshal Sisi

The Muslim Brotherhood was designated a terrorist organisation in December, although the government has produced no evidence to support its designation.

“This decision is not a final one, but if it were final, it’s all right. You have to know we are fighting terrorism. We have to deter them,” Mr Dorgham said.

Nathan Brown, a professor at the George Washington University in Washington, and an expert on Egypt’s judiciary system, says the verdict is likely to be lessened.

“If it were implemented in its current form, that would shock me even more than the verdict itself,” he said.

Despite the outlandish harshness and volume of the verdicts, several features of the case have become typical of the widening crackdown on Morsi’s Brotherhood and the secular opposition.

 At least 16,000 people have been arrested since July, according to state  officials, and thousands  have been tortured, according  to the monitoring group Nation  Without Torture.

The accused and their lawyers also routinely complained of judicial abuses, according to Heba Wanis, of another monitoring group, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.Amnesty International said that it was the largest simultaneous mass death sentence handed down in memory, anywhere in the world.

“There is no case that we are aware of that is of this magnitude,” said Jan Wetzel, a death penalty researcher at Amnesty.

“It’s grotesque, using death sentences like small change.”

Maha Sayyed, 30, a teacher, said she believes her husband Ahmed Eid, a lawyer, was detained in an act of revenge after he secured the release of four of his clients accused of participating in Brotherhood-related activities.

“We want to talk about that case with those four guys,” one security officer said to him, according to his wife, before arranging the meeting that led to his arrest.

Now he is one of the more than 100 people who are in custody, accused over the police station attack.

The 528 sentenced on Monday were among more than 1,200 Muslim Brotherhood supporters accused of participating in the violence in Minya. Many of the remainder are due in court today, including Mohamed Badie, the Supreme Guide of the Brotherhood – its most senior figure.

Egypt’s judiciary repeatedly clashed with Mohamed Morsi during his year in power, and was one of the pillars of the alliance which deposed him on 3 July, replacing him with the then head of the Supreme Constitutional Court.

The Brotherhood has accused judges of aiding the crackdown through harsh and politicised verdicts.

“We have become used to decisions like this from the courts,” said Ahmed Shaheeb, a lawyer for 25 of the defendants.

Mr Shaheeb’s own brother Hossam fled the country after being accused in the  same case.

Professor Brown believes, however that most verdicts are arrived at without interference from the state, but that deep problems nonetheless skew the system.

“First, the security apparatus seems unscrupulous and that is where evidence comes from,” he said.

“Second, large parts of the judiciary seem to have been spooked by the Morsi regime, sometimes for good reason and sometimes not. That seems to have clouded the judgement of many.

“And third, the judiciary has a world view that is very respectful of law but also one that can be less than liberal, especially when the law is less than liberal or there is a perceived threat to judges’ own self-image as pillars of order and justice.”

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments