An Egyptian court has sentenced almost 200 people to death for a violent attack on a police station last year during the riots that ousted President Mohamed Morsi.
The sentencing comes shortly after an Egyptian court in Cairo ruled on a procedural technicality that saw charges against former President Hosni Mubark dismissed. Mr Mubarak had been accused of overseeing the police killing of just over a 1000 protesters in the 2011 riots.
A court in Giza issued a death sentence for 188 alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters, charging them with the murder of 11 police officers on 14 August 2013.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahrouai condemned the court's actions. “The sentencing is another example of how the country’s criminal justice system is spiralling out of control.
“It's quite telling that the sentencing, the third such conviction we’ve seen this year, was handed down in the same week that the case against former President Hosni Mubarak was dropped and former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly and his aides were cleared of all charges over killing protesters during the ‘January 25 revolution’.
He added: "This is blatantly a case of justice being meted out based on a political whim."
A defence lawyer claimed that not only had there been no effort to prove that any of the individuals charged had personally killed any one of the officers, large swathes of evidence were suppressed and scores of witnesses were excluded from the courtroom.
Only 135 of the 188 were present during the trial, with the rest tried in absentia.
Defence lawyer Bahaa Abdel-Rahman told Ahram Online that among the defendants were two persons who died during the trial, but who weren't dropped from the trial, along with a minor.
The 188 were also found guilty of the attempted murder of 10 other police personnel, sabotaging the police station, torching a number of police vehicles and possessing heavy firearms.
Egyptian law requires the verdict to be reviewed by the Grand Mufti, the highest religious authority in Egypt, but their decision is non-binding on the courts.
President Mubarak’s 30-year rule was ended in 2011 in huge riots amid hopes for a new era of political openness and accountability. Although Mubarak was sentenced in 2012 to life imprisonment for conspiring to murder 239 protesters, an appeal court ordered a retrial which has subsequently cleared Mubarak and many of his closest supporters.
The 86-year-old former leader remains in jail as he is serving a separate three-year embezzlement charge.
His downfall lead to President Morsi’s election, but the leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood was later ousted by military leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in May following protests over his rule.
Sisi, who won the following presidential election, cracked down on Muslim Brotherhood supporters. Hundreds died in nationwide unrest in August last year following the dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins in prominent locations in Cairo.
Egyptian security forces raided seemingly peaceful camps in two squares, al-Nahda and Rabaa al-Adawiya, with Human Rights Watch describing events as the most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in Egypt’s recent history.
It is the latest in a series of death sentences handed down by Egyptian courts this year.
In March a court in Minya, south of Cairo, awarded a death sentence to 529 people for killing an officer among other crimes. The same judge then handed down another death sentences to 683 people in April for – again – killing a police officer.
The Grand Mufti held up death sentences for 37 in the first trial and 183 for the second. Both are still being appealed.
Egyptian authorities have rounded up thousands of Brotherhood members since the army ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July last year, following protests against his turbulent one-year rule.Reuse content