Mohamed Morsi sentenced to death: Egyptian court hands down death penalty to ousted president

The deposed Muslim Brotherhood leader is one of more than 100 people to be sentenced to death for involvement in prison breaks during the Arab Spring

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The Independent Online

Egypt’s first democratically elected president has been sentenced to death as a government crackdown against his supporters continues.

Mohamed Morsi was deposed by the military in July 2013 during huge street protests against his rule and he has been imprisoned ever since.

The former leader had already been sentenced to 20 years in jail for ordering the arrest and torture of protesters but was today condemned for separate charges relating to a mass prison break in 2011.

Supporters of Mohamed Morsi celebrating his election victory in Cairo in 2012

He was accused of plotting with foreign militants to free Islamists and supporters of his Muslim Brotherhood in raids on several jails.

Mr Morsi himself escaped Wadi Natroun prison during the violence, having been imprisoned with fellow party leaders days before.

A total of 105 defendants have also been sentenced to death, including around 70 Palestinians, most of whom had been tried and convicted in absentia.

Judge Shaaban el-Shami announced the death sentence for Mr Morsi at a court in Cairo as Muslim Brotherhood supporters chanted "down with military rule".

It has been referred to Egypt’s Grand Mufti, a Muslim theologian, for his religious opinion. Another court hearing has been set for 2 June.

Opponents of Mohammed Morsi in protests leading up to the 2013 coup in Cairo

Mr Morsi is expected to appeal the verdict and his supporters claim the charges were politically motivated, attempting to legitimise the coup against him.

The former President faces further punishment in a separate case alleging that he, along with aides and fellow leaders of his now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood party, passed state secrets to foreign groups, including Hamas, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group.

The court recommended death sentences for 16 other defendants accused of espionage in the case and the verdict on Mr Morsi's involvement will be passed in June.

The 2011 prison break saw hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members escape four jails in Cairo as armed gangs took advantage of chaos during the Arab Spring.

Protesters opposing Morsi's rule were killed, arrested and allegedly tortured by security forces

Turmoil raged in Egypt as tens of thousands of protesters occupied Tahrir Square and landmarks in other cities demanding the removal of President Hosni Mubarak, who had been in power for three decades.

He resigned after weeks of demonstrations and the military took power until Mr Morsi was voted in following internationally scrutinised presidential elections in 2012.

But protests began building less than a year into his rule after he issued a decree extending his powers and in July 2013, the Egyptian Armed Forces launched a coup.

Muslim Brotherhood leaders and supporters have since faced numerous charges relating to the killing and wounding of anti-government protesters, seeing many sentenced to death.

Mr Morsi's predecessor Mubarak was also jailed in connection with the deaths of Arab Spring demonstrators but the charges have since been dismissed.

The 87-year-old was jailed for three years after a re-trial in a separate embezzlement case.

The current Egyptian President, former military chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, secured a landslide victory in presidential elections in May 2014.

Additional reporting by agencies