Egypt’s highest civil court on Monday confirmed the death sentences of 12 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, concluding a trial linked to a 2013 massacre by security forces during a sit-in, according to judicial sources.
The decision, which cannot be appealed, means the 12 men could be executed pending approval from President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. These include Abdul Rahman Al-Bar, commonly described as the mufti or the group’s greatest religious scholar, Mohamed El-Beltagi, a former member of parliament, and Osama Yassin, a former minister.
Numerous Muslim Brotherhood figures have been sentenced to death in other cases related to the unrest following the military’s impeachment of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, but the Court of Cassation ordered a new trial.
After Morsi’s impeachment in July 2013 amid mass protests against his regime, his Muslim Brotherhood supporters staged a massive sit-in in Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square in eastern Cairo to demand his return.
The following month, security forces raided the square and killed some 800 people in a single day.
Authorities said at the time that protesters were armed and that forced dispersal was a vital “counterterrorism” measure.
This marked the start of a long crackdown on the opposition in Egypt.
Those condemned to death on Monday were found guilty “of having armed criminal gangs which attacked residents and resisted the police as well as possession of firearms … ammunition … and bomb-making equipment,” he said. the court of cassation in its judgment.
Other charges include “killing police officers … resisting authorities … and occupying and destroying public property,” he added.
The court also reduced the sentences of 31 other members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an official told AFP news agency.
In 2018, an Egyptian court sentenced 75 defendants to death in the trial and the rest to various prison terms, including 10 years for Morsi’s son Osama.
Civilians sentenced to death in Egypt are executed by hanging.
“One of the biggest murders”
The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, calls for Islam to be at the heart of public life.
It established itself as the main opposition movement in Egypt despite decades of repression, and inspired derivative movements and political parties across the Muslim world.
But it remains banned in several countries including Egypt for its alleged links with “terrorism”.
Morsi was elected following mass protests in Egypt in 2011 and the impeachment of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak, but was overthrown by the military led by current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Sisi’s government banned the Muslim Brotherhood at the end of 2013 and oversaw a widespread crackdown, imprisoning thousands of its supporters.
Morsi, who had been sentenced to death for his role in prison breakouts during the uprising against Mubarak, died in June 2019 after fainting in court.
Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said the death sentences “cast a shadow over the entire country’s justice system.”
“These ruthless death sentences, which were handed down in 2018 after a manifestly unfair mass trial, tarnish the reputation of Egypt’s highest court of appeal and cast a shadow over the entire system. judicial system of the country, ”he said in a statement.
Egypt has become the third most common executioner in the world, Luther said, adding that at least 51 men and women have been executed in 2021 so far.
He said the Egyptian authorities must establish an official “moratorium on executions”.
“Those protesters found guilty of committing violent crimes should be retried in fair and impartial trials without the use of the death penalty,” Luther added.
Khalil al-Anani, a professor of political science at the Doha Institute who has written a book on the Muslim Brotherhood, said on Twitter that the verdict was part of the government’s “continuing political revenge … against its political opponents.”
Human Rights Watch called the violent dispersal of the Rabaa sit-in a “massacre” and “one of the world’s largest single-day killings of protesters in recent history.”
No Egyptian official has been tried for these murders.
In April, Egypt executed at least nine people in an assault on a police station in 2013 in which 13 policemen were killed.
Amnesty International has castigated a “significant spike” in executions recorded in Egypt, from 32 in 2019 to 107 last year.
“The Egyptian authorities have shown a ruthless determination to persist in their increasing use of the death penalty,” the rights group said in April.