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Egypt sentences 683 to death in another mass trial

KDWN

MINYA, Egypt (AP) — The Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader and more than 680 other people were sentenced to death Monday stemming from last year’s post-coup violence in the latest mass trial that was denounced in the West and by human rights groups as contrary to the rule of law.

In a separate ruling Monday, a court banned the April 6 youth group – one of several that engineered the 2011 uprising against longtime leader Hosni Mubarak that set off nearly three years of unrest. It ordered the confiscation of the group’s offices.

The sentences for the 683 defendants were announced by Judge Said Youssef at a court session in the southern city of Minya that lasted only eight minutes.

The verdicts are not final and are expected to be overturned. Under the law, once the defendants who were tried in absentia turn themselves in – which is all but 63 of the accused – their trials will start over.

The mass trials were linked to riots in which supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi allegedly attacked police stations and churches in retaliation for security forces violently breaking up Cairo sit-ins by Islamists in August that left hundreds dead. The defendants in Monday’s trial are part of a group of nearly 1,000 who were implicated in the deaths of three policemen and a civilian, as well as others who were injured.

Youssef said he was referring the death sentences – which followed convictions for the violence – to the Grand Mufti, Egypt’s top Islamic official. The move is a legal requirement that is usually considered a formality, but it also allows the judge to change his mind.

Youssef also reduced the sentences against 529 defendants from a mass trial at which he presided in March. He upheld the death penalty for only 37 of them – an extraordinarily high number under Egyptian law – and commuted the rest to life imprisonment. The death sentences are being appealed by the prosecutor general.

By contrast, after the trial in the wake of the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, only five people were executed.

Monday’s court action drew international outcry.

Amnesty International said it feared the judiciary is “becoming just another part of the authorities’ repressive machinery, issuing sentences of death and life imprisonment on an industrial scale.”

Washington called for the rulings to be reversed.

“The United States is deeply concerned by today’s Egyptian court actions related to another mass trial and preliminary death sentences as well as the banning of the April 6 youth movement activities,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

“These court decisions run counter to the most basic democratic principles and foster the instability, extremism, and radicalization that Egypt’s interim government says it seeks to resolve,” she said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the verdicts “make a mockery of the rule of law.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that the verdicts are likely to “undermine prospects for long-term stability,” according to U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch said “the fact that the death sentences can be appealed provides little solace to hundreds of families that will go to sleep tonight facing the very real prospect that their loves ones could be executed without having an opportunity to present a case in court.”

Egypt’s military-backed government has cracked down on Morsi supporters under the banner of a “war against terrorism” while tightening its grip on the Arab world’s most populous nation.

Morsi was removed from power in July by the military after millions demonstrated and demanded he step down. Afterward, his supporters held near daily demonstrations that frequently descended into violence during which hundreds were killed and 16,000 detained. In retaliation, Islamic militant carried out suicide bombing and attacked police and military.

The crackdown has ensnared secular-minded activists who opposed the interim government. In recent months, many of those who opposed Mubarak were imprisoned for defying a new law that that prohibits political gatherings without prior police permits.

Rights groups say they believe Mubarak’s police state has returned.

“The ball is rolling, a frenzied media campaign is backing the security apparatus’ vengeful spirit, police are acting with complete impunity … and judges in this atmosphere have become tools in hands of the police,” said Bahey Eldin Hassan, head of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. “Amid this madness, you can see verdicts like these.”

The highest profile defendant who was convicted and sentenced to death Monday was Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide. Like several of its leaders, he had no official post in Morsi’s government but was believed to wield extensive influence.

If his sentence is upheld, he would be the most senior Brotherhood figure to be put to death since one of the group’s leading ideologues, Sayed Qutb, was executed in 1966.

Badie was not at Monday’s hearing in Minya. He was in a Cairo court, where he faces charges of murder and incitement to murder along with 16 other Brotherhood leaders in a case connected to deadly protests at the group’s headquarters in June 2013.

When he heard about the death sentence, Badie voiced defiance, according to Osama Morsi, the son of the ousted president. On his Facebook page, Osama Morsi quoted Badie as saying: “If they execute me a thousand times, I swear in the name of God not to deviate from the truth.”

Defense lawyers in the mass trials boycotted the last month’s session to protest what they said was inadequate time to represent their clients. In the previous mass trial, a judicial official told The Associated Press that the judge didn’t have time to verify the defendants were present.

Ali Kamal, one of the defense lawyers, said Monday’s hearing lasted only eight minutes. Security forces surrounded the courthouse and blocked roads, preventing reporters and many relatives of the defendants from attending.

“This is against the spirit of the law,” Kamal said.

Evidence presented in the trial consisted mostly of video showing a Minya police station being attacked and looted and several government buildings being set ablaze. The defendants faced nearly 14 charges, five of them punishable by death, said a judicial official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information.

Once the Grand Mufti reviews Monday’s ruling, the same court will hold another session June 21 to issue the final verdicts. The ultimate decision is up to the judge.

As the ruling was announced, an outcry erupted outside court among the defendants’ relatives, with many accusing police of fabricating the case. Others denied any link by the defendants to the Muslim Brotherhood. Women fainted, wailed or cried out, “Why? This is unfair!”

A woman who only gave her first name, Samiya, screamed in grief: “My three sons are inside! I have no one but God!”

Mohammed Hassan Shehata said his son, Mahmoud, was only arrested in January, adding, “There is no evidence whatsoever. If my son is guilty, behead him. But if he is innocent, there will be a civil war.”

Gamal Sayyed, a 25-year-old teacher who belongs to the Brotherhood and spoke to The Associated Press from hiding, said he became a fugitive after he was arrested for three months and released pending investigation.

“This ruling is aimed at vilifying the group, creating in public minds images of devils, terrorists, and extremists,” he said. “This trial is crazy … but nothing is going to intimidate the youth in the streets protesting against this bloody coup.”

But some reaction in Cairo appeared to approve of the action as a way to restore security, reflecting a media campaign by the government.

“Even if they sentence a million people to death, so what?” said Sadeek el-Moghazi, a 43-year-old newspaper vendor in the eastern district of Heliopolis. “This is the best ruling in the history of the Egyptian judiciary.”

Michael reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Mariam Rizk and Laura Dean in Cairo and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

Egypt sentences 683 to death in another mass trial

KDWN

MINYA, Egypt (AP) — The Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader and more than 680 other people were sentenced to death Monday stemming from last year’s post-coup violence in the latest mass trial that was denounced in the West and by human rights groups as contrary to the rule of law.

In a separate ruling Monday, a court banned the April 6 youth group – one of several that engineered the 2011 uprising against longtime leader Hosni Mubarak that set off nearly three years of unrest. It ordered the confiscation of the group’s offices.

The sentences for the 683 defendants were announced by Judge Said Youssef at a court session in the southern city of Minya that lasted only eight minutes.

The verdicts are not final and are expected to be overturned. Under the law, once the defendants who were tried in absentia turn themselves in – which is all but 63 of the accused – their trials will start over.

The mass trials were linked to riots in which supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi allegedly attacked police stations and churches in retaliation for security forces violently breaking up Cairo sit-ins by Islamists in August that left hundreds dead. The defendants in Monday’s trial are part of a group of nearly 1,000 who were implicated in the deaths of three policemen and a civilian, as well as others who were injured.

Youssef said he was referring the death sentences – which followed convictions for the violence – to the Grand Mufti, Egypt’s top Islamic official. The move is a legal requirement that is usually considered a formality, but it also allows the judge to change his mind.

Youssef also reduced the sentences against 529 defendants from a mass trial at which he presided in March. He upheld the death penalty for only 37 of them – an extraordinarily high number under Egyptian law – and commuted the rest to life imprisonment. The death sentences are being appealed by the prosecutor general.

By contrast, after the trial in the wake of the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, only five people were executed.

Monday’s court action drew international outcry.

Amnesty International said it feared the judiciary is “becoming just another part of the authorities’ repressive machinery, issuing sentences of death and life imprisonment on an industrial scale.”

Washington called for the rulings to be reversed.

“The United States is deeply concerned by today’s Egyptian court actions related to another mass trial and preliminary death sentences as well as the banning of the April 6 youth movement activities,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

“These court decisions run counter to the most basic democratic principles and foster the instability, extremism, and radicalization that Egypt’s interim government says it seeks to resolve,” she said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the verdicts “make a mockery of the rule of law.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that the verdicts are likely to “undermine prospects for long-term stability,” according to U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch said “the fact that the death sentences can be appealed provides little solace to hundreds of families that will go to sleep tonight facing the very real prospect that their loves ones could be executed without having an opportunity to present a case in court.”

Egypt’s military-backed government has cracked down on Morsi supporters under the banner of a “war against terrorism” while tightening its grip on the Arab world’s most populous nation.

Morsi was removed from power in July by the military after millions demonstrated and demanded he step down. Afterward, his supporters held near daily demonstrations that frequently descended into violence during which hundreds were killed and 16,000 detained. In retaliation, Islamic militant carried out suicide bombing and attacked police and military.

The crackdown has ensnared secular-minded activists who opposed the interim government. In recent months, many of those who opposed Mubarak were imprisoned for defying a new law that that prohibits political gatherings without prior police permits.

Rights groups say they believe Mubarak’s police state has returned.

“The ball is rolling, a frenzied media campaign is backing the security apparatus’ vengeful spirit, police are acting with complete impunity … and judges in this atmosphere have become tools in hands of the police,” said Bahey Eldin Hassan, head of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. “Amid this madness, you can see verdicts like these.”

The highest profile defendant who was convicted and sentenced to death Monday was Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide. Like several of its leaders, he had no official post in Morsi’s government but was believed to wield extensive influence.

If his sentence is upheld, he would be the most senior Brotherhood figure to be put to death since one of the group’s leading ideologues, Sayed Qutb, was executed in 1966.

Badie was not at Monday’s hearing in Minya. He was in a Cairo court, where he faces charges of murder and incitement to murder along with 16 other Brotherhood leaders in a case connected to deadly protests at the group’s headquarters in June 2013.

When he heard about the death sentence, Badie voiced defiance, according to Osama Morsi, the son of the ousted president. On his Facebook page, Osama Morsi quoted Badie as saying: “If they execute me a thousand times, I swear in the name of God not to deviate from the truth.”

Defense lawyers in the mass trials boycotted the last month’s session to protest what they said was inadequate time to represent their clients. In the previous mass trial, a judicial official told The Associated Press that the judge didn’t have time to verify the defendants were present.

Ali Kamal, one of the defense lawyers, said Monday’s hearing lasted only eight minutes. Security forces surrounded the courthouse and blocked roads, preventing reporters and many relatives of the defendants from attending.

“This is against the spirit of the law,” Kamal said.

Evidence presented in the trial consisted mostly of video showing a Minya police station being attacked and looted and several government buildings being set ablaze. The defendants faced nearly 14 charges, five of them punishable by death, said a judicial official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information.

Once the Grand Mufti reviews Monday’s ruling, the same court will hold another session June 21 to issue the final verdicts. The ultimate decision is up to the judge.

As the ruling was announced, an outcry erupted outside court among the defendants’ relatives, with many accusing police of fabricating the case. Others denied any link by the defendants to the Muslim Brotherhood. Women fainted, wailed or cried out, “Why? This is unfair!”

A woman who only gave her first name, Samiya, screamed in grief: “My three sons are inside! I have no one but God!”

Mohammed Hassan Shehata said his son, Mahmoud, was only arrested in January, adding, “There is no evidence whatsoever. If my son is guilty, behead him. But if he is innocent, there will be a civil war.”

Gamal Sayyed, a 25-year-old teacher who belongs to the Brotherhood and spoke to The Associated Press from hiding, said he became a fugitive after he was arrested for three months and released pending investigation.

“This ruling is aimed at vilifying the group, creating in public minds images of devils, terrorists, and extremists,” he said. “This trial is crazy … but nothing is going to intimidate the youth in the streets protesting against this bloody coup.”

But some reaction in Cairo appeared to approve of the action as a way to restore security, reflecting a media campaign by the government.

“Even if they sentence a million people to death, so what?” said Sadeek el-Moghazi, a 43-year-old newspaper vendor in the eastern district of Heliopolis. “This is the best ruling in the history of the Egyptian judiciary.”

Michael reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Mariam Rizk and Laura Dean in Cairo and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

Egypt sentences 683 to death in another mass trial

KDWN

MINYA, Egypt (AP) — The Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader and more than 680 other people were sentenced to death Monday stemming from last year’s post-coup violence in the latest mass trial that was denounced in the West and by human rights groups as contrary to the rule of law.

In a separate ruling Monday, a court banned the April 6 youth group – one of several that engineered the 2011 uprising against longtime leader Hosni Mubarak that set off nearly three years of unrest. It ordered the confiscation of the group’s offices.

The sentences for the 683 defendants were announced by Judge Said Youssef at a court session in the southern city of Minya that lasted only eight minutes.

The verdicts are not final and are expected to be overturned. Under the law, once the defendants who were tried in absentia turn themselves in – which is all but 63 of the accused – their trials will start over.

The mass trials were linked to riots in which supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi allegedly attacked police stations and churches in retaliation for security forces violently breaking up Cairo sit-ins by Islamists in August that left hundreds dead. The defendants in Monday’s trial are part of a group of nearly 1,000 who were implicated in the deaths of three policemen and a civilian, as well as others who were injured.

Youssef said he was referring the death sentences – which followed convictions for the violence – to the Grand Mufti, Egypt’s top Islamic official. The move is a legal requirement that is usually considered a formality, but it also allows the judge to change his mind.

Youssef also reduced the sentences against 529 defendants from a mass trial at which he presided in March. He upheld the death penalty for only 37 of them – an extraordinarily high number under Egyptian law – and commuted the rest to life imprisonment. The death sentences are being appealed by the prosecutor general.

By contrast, after the trial in the wake of the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, only five people were executed.

Monday’s court action drew international outcry.

Amnesty International said it feared the judiciary is “becoming just another part of the authorities’ repressive machinery, issuing sentences of death and life imprisonment on an industrial scale.”

Washington called for the rulings to be reversed.

“The United States is deeply concerned by today’s Egyptian court actions related to another mass trial and preliminary death sentences as well as the banning of the April 6 youth movement activities,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

“These court decisions run counter to the most basic democratic principles and foster the instability, extremism, and radicalization that Egypt’s interim government says it seeks to resolve,” she said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the verdicts “make a mockery of the rule of law.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that the verdicts are likely to “undermine prospects for long-term stability,” according to U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch said “the fact that the death sentences can be appealed provides little solace to hundreds of families that will go to sleep tonight facing the very real prospect that their loves ones could be executed without having an opportunity to present a case in court.”

Egypt’s military-backed government has cracked down on Morsi supporters under the banner of a “war against terrorism” while tightening its grip on the Arab world’s most populous nation.

Morsi was removed from power in July by the military after millions demonstrated and demanded he step down. Afterward, his supporters held near daily demonstrations that frequently descended into violence during which hundreds were killed and 16,000 detained. In retaliation, Islamic militant carried out suicide bombing and attacked police and military.

The crackdown has ensnared secular-minded activists who opposed the interim government. In recent months, many of those who opposed Mubarak were imprisoned for defying a new law that that prohibits political gatherings without prior police permits.

Rights groups say they believe Mubarak’s police state has returned.

“The ball is rolling, a frenzied media campaign is backing the security apparatus’ vengeful spirit, police are acting with complete impunity … and judges in this atmosphere have become tools in hands of the police,” said Bahey Eldin Hassan, head of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. “Amid this madness, you can see verdicts like these.”

The highest profile defendant who was convicted and sentenced to death Monday was Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide. Like several of its leaders, he had no official post in Morsi’s government but was believed to wield extensive influence.

If his sentence is upheld, he would be the most senior Brotherhood figure to be put to death since one of the group’s leading ideologues, Sayed Qutb, was executed in 1966.

Badie was not at Monday’s hearing in Minya. He was in a Cairo court, where he faces charges of murder and incitement to murder along with 16 other Brotherhood leaders in a case connected to deadly protests at the group’s headquarters in June 2013.

When he heard about the death sentence, Badie voiced defiance, according to Osama Morsi, the son of the ousted president. On his Facebook page, Osama Morsi quoted Badie as saying: “If they execute me a thousand times, I swear in the name of God not to deviate from the truth.”

Defense lawyers in the mass trials boycotted the last month’s session to protest what they said was inadequate time to represent their clients. In the previous mass trial, a judicial official told The Associated Press that the judge didn’t have time to verify the defendants were present.

Ali Kamal, one of the defense lawyers, said Monday’s hearing lasted only eight minutes. Security forces surrounded the courthouse and blocked roads, preventing reporters and many relatives of the defendants from attending.

“This is against the spirit of the law,” Kamal said.

Evidence presented in the trial consisted mostly of video showing a Minya police station being attacked and looted and several government buildings being set ablaze. The defendants faced nearly 14 charges, five of them punishable by death, said a judicial official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information.

Once the Grand Mufti reviews Monday’s ruling, the same court will hold another session June 21 to issue the final verdicts. The ultimate decision is up to the judge.

As the ruling was announced, an outcry erupted outside court among the defendants’ relatives, with many accusing police of fabricating the case. Others denied any link by the defendants to the Muslim Brotherhood. Women fainted, wailed or cried out, “Why? This is unfair!”

A woman who only gave her first name, Samiya, screamed in grief: “My three sons are inside! I have no one but God!”

Mohammed Hassan Shehata said his son, Mahmoud, was only arrested in January, adding, “There is no evidence whatsoever. If my son is guilty, behead him. But if he is innocent, there will be a civil war.”

Gamal Sayyed, a 25-year-old teacher who belongs to the Brotherhood and spoke to The Associated Press from hiding, said he became a fugitive after he was arrested for three months and released pending investigation.

“This ruling is aimed at vilifying the group, creating in public minds images of devils, terrorists, and extremists,” he said. “This trial is crazy … but nothing is going to intimidate the youth in the streets protesting against this bloody coup.”

But some reaction in Cairo appeared to approve of the action as a way to restore security, reflecting a media campaign by the government.

“Even if they sentence a million people to death, so what?” said Sadeek el-Moghazi, a 43-year-old newspaper vendor in the eastern district of Heliopolis. “This is the best ruling in the history of the Egyptian judiciary.”

Michael reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Mariam Rizk and Laura Dean in Cairo and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

Egypt sentences 683 to death in another mass trial

KDWN

MINYA, Egypt (AP) — The Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader and more than 680 other people were sentenced to death Monday stemming from last year’s post-coup violence in the latest mass trial that was denounced in the West and by human rights groups as contrary to the rule of law.

In a separate ruling Monday, a court banned the April 6 youth group – one of several that engineered the 2011 uprising against longtime leader Hosni Mubarak that set off nearly three years of unrest. It ordered the confiscation of the group’s offices.

The sentences for the 683 defendants were announced by Judge Said Youssef at a court session in the southern city of Minya that lasted only eight minutes.

The verdicts are not final and are expected to be overturned. Under the law, once the defendants who were tried in absentia turn themselves in – which is all but 63 of the accused – their trials will start over.

The mass trials were linked to riots in which supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi allegedly attacked police stations and churches in retaliation for security forces violently breaking up Cairo sit-ins by Islamists in August that left hundreds dead. The defendants in Monday’s trial are part of a group of nearly 1,000 who were implicated in the deaths of three policemen and a civilian, as well as others who were injured.

Youssef said he was referring the death sentences – which followed convictions for the violence – to the Grand Mufti, Egypt’s top Islamic official. The move is a legal requirement that is usually considered a formality, but it also allows the judge to change his mind.

Youssef also reduced the sentences against 529 defendants from a mass trial at which he presided in March. He upheld the death penalty for only 37 of them – an extraordinarily high number under Egyptian law – and commuted the rest to life imprisonment. The death sentences are being appealed by the prosecutor general.

By contrast, after the trial in the wake of the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, only five people were executed.

Monday’s court action drew international outcry.

Amnesty International said it feared the judiciary is “becoming just another part of the authorities’ repressive machinery, issuing sentences of death and life imprisonment on an industrial scale.”

Washington called for the rulings to be reversed.

“The United States is deeply concerned by today’s Egyptian court actions related to another mass trial and preliminary death sentences as well as the banning of the April 6 youth movement activities,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

“These court decisions run counter to the most basic democratic principles and foster the instability, extremism, and radicalization that Egypt’s interim government says it seeks to resolve,” she said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the verdicts “make a mockery of the rule of law.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that the verdicts are likely to “undermine prospects for long-term stability,” according to U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch said “the fact that the death sentences can be appealed provides little solace to hundreds of families that will go to sleep tonight facing the very real prospect that their loves ones could be executed without having an opportunity to present a case in court.”

Egypt’s military-backed government has cracked down on Morsi supporters under the banner of a “war against terrorism” while tightening its grip on the Arab world’s most populous nation.

Morsi was removed from power in July by the military after millions demonstrated and demanded he step down. Afterward, his supporters held near daily demonstrations that frequently descended into violence during which hundreds were killed and 16,000 detained. In retaliation, Islamic militant carried out suicide bombing and attacked police and military.

The crackdown has ensnared secular-minded activists who opposed the interim government. In recent months, many of those who opposed Mubarak were imprisoned for defying a new law that that prohibits political gatherings without prior police permits.

Rights groups say they believe Mubarak’s police state has returned.

“The ball is rolling, a frenzied media campaign is backing the security apparatus’ vengeful spirit, police are acting with complete impunity … and judges in this atmosphere have become tools in hands of the police,” said Bahey Eldin Hassan, head of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. “Amid this madness, you can see verdicts like these.”

The highest profile defendant who was convicted and sentenced to death Monday was Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide. Like several of its leaders, he had no official post in Morsi’s government but was believed to wield extensive influence.

If his sentence is upheld, he would be the most senior Brotherhood figure to be put to death since one of the group’s leading ideologues, Sayed Qutb, was executed in 1966.

Badie was not at Monday’s hearing in Minya. He was in a Cairo court, where he faces charges of murder and incitement to murder along with 16 other Brotherhood leaders in a case connected to deadly protests at the group’s headquarters in June 2013.

When he heard about the death sentence, Badie voiced defiance, according to Osama Morsi, the son of the ousted president. On his Facebook page, Osama Morsi quoted Badie as saying: “If they execute me a thousand times, I swear in the name of God not to deviate from the truth.”

Defense lawyers in the mass trials boycotted the last month’s session to protest what they said was inadequate time to represent their clients. In the previous mass trial, a judicial official told The Associated Press that the judge didn’t have time to verify the defendants were present.

Ali Kamal, one of the defense lawyers, said Monday’s hearing lasted only eight minutes. Security forces surrounded the courthouse and blocked roads, preventing reporters and many relatives of the defendants from attending.

“This is against the spirit of the law,” Kamal said.

Evidence presented in the trial consisted mostly of video showing a Minya police station being attacked and looted and several government buildings being set ablaze. The defendants faced nearly 14 charges, five of them punishable by death, said a judicial official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information.

Once the Grand Mufti reviews Monday’s ruling, the same court will hold another session June 21 to issue the final verdicts. The ultimate decision is up to the judge.

As the ruling was announced, an outcry erupted outside court among the defendants’ relatives, with many accusing police of fabricating the case. Others denied any link by the defendants to the Muslim Brotherhood. Women fainted, wailed or cried out, “Why? This is unfair!”

A woman who only gave her first name, Samiya, screamed in grief: “My three sons are inside! I have no one but God!”

Mohammed Hassan Shehata said his son, Mahmoud, was only arrested in January, adding, “There is no evidence whatsoever. If my son is guilty, behead him. But if he is innocent, there will be a civil war.”

Gamal Sayyed, a 25-year-old teacher who belongs to the Brotherhood and spoke to The Associated Press from hiding, said he became a fugitive after he was arrested for three months and released pending investigation.

“This ruling is aimed at vilifying the group, creating in public minds images of devils, terrorists, and extremists,” he said. “This trial is crazy … but nothing is going to intimidate the youth in the streets protesting against this bloody coup.”

But some reaction in Cairo appeared to approve of the action as a way to restore security, reflecting a media campaign by the government.

“Even if they sentence a million people to death, so what?” said Sadeek el-Moghazi, a 43-year-old newspaper vendor in the eastern district of Heliopolis. “This is the best ruling in the history of the Egyptian judiciary.”

Michael reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Mariam Rizk and Laura Dean in Cairo and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

Egypt sentences 683 to death in another mass trial

KDWN

MINYA, Egypt (AP) — The Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader and more than 680 other people were sentenced to death Monday stemming from last year’s post-coup violence in the latest mass trial that was denounced in the West and by human rights groups as contrary to the rule of law.

In a separate ruling Monday, a court banned the April 6 youth group – one of several that engineered the 2011 uprising against longtime leader Hosni Mubarak that set off nearly three years of unrest. It ordered the confiscation of the group’s offices.

The sentences for the 683 defendants were announced by Judge Said Youssef at a court session in the southern city of Minya that lasted only eight minutes.

The verdicts are not final and are expected to be overturned. Under the law, once the defendants who were tried in absentia turn themselves in – which is all but 63 of the accused – their trials will start over.

The mass trials were linked to riots in which supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi allegedly attacked police stations and churches in retaliation for security forces violently breaking up Cairo sit-ins by Islamists in August that left hundreds dead. The defendants in Monday’s trial are part of a group of nearly 1,000 who were implicated in the deaths of three policemen and a civilian, as well as others who were injured.

Youssef said he was referring the death sentences – which followed convictions for the violence – to the Grand Mufti, Egypt’s top Islamic official. The move is a legal requirement that is usually considered a formality, but it also allows the judge to change his mind.

Youssef also reduced the sentences against 529 defendants from a mass trial at which he presided in March. He upheld the death penalty for only 37 of them – an extraordinarily high number under Egyptian law – and commuted the rest to life imprisonment. The death sentences are being appealed by the prosecutor general.

By contrast, after the trial in the wake of the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, only five people were executed.

Monday’s court action drew international outcry.

Amnesty International said it feared the judiciary is “becoming just another part of the authorities’ repressive machinery, issuing sentences of death and life imprisonment on an industrial scale.”

Washington called for the rulings to be reversed.

“The United States is deeply concerned by today’s Egyptian court actions related to another mass trial and preliminary death sentences as well as the banning of the April 6 youth movement activities,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

“These court decisions run counter to the most basic democratic principles and foster the instability, extremism, and radicalization that Egypt’s interim government says it seeks to resolve,” she said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the verdicts “make a mockery of the rule of law.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that the verdicts are likely to “undermine prospects for long-term stability,” according to U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch said “the fact that the death sentences can be appealed provides little solace to hundreds of families that will go to sleep tonight facing the very real prospect that their loves ones could be executed without having an opportunity to present a case in court.”

Egypt’s military-backed government has cracked down on Morsi supporters under the banner of a “war against terrorism” while tightening its grip on the Arab world’s most populous nation.

Morsi was removed from power in July by the military after millions demonstrated and demanded he step down. Afterward, his supporters held near daily demonstrations that frequently descended into violence during which hundreds were killed and 16,000 detained. In retaliation, Islamic militant carried out suicide bombing and attacked police and military.

The crackdown has ensnared secular-minded activists who opposed the interim government. In recent months, many of those who opposed Mubarak were imprisoned for defying a new law that that prohibits political gatherings without prior police permits.

Rights groups say they believe Mubarak’s police state has returned.

“The ball is rolling, a frenzied media campaign is backing the security apparatus’ vengeful spirit, police are acting with complete impunity … and judges in this atmosphere have become tools in hands of the police,” said Bahey Eldin Hassan, head of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. “Amid this madness, you can see verdicts like these.”

The highest profile defendant who was convicted and sentenced to death Monday was Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide. Like several of its leaders, he had no official post in Morsi’s government but was believed to wield extensive influence.

If his sentence is upheld, he would be the most senior Brotherhood figure to be put to death since one of the group’s leading ideologues, Sayed Qutb, was executed in 1966.

Badie was not at Monday’s hearing in Minya. He was in a Cairo court, where he faces charges of murder and incitement to murder along with 16 other Brotherhood leaders in a case connected to deadly protests at the group’s headquarters in June 2013.

When he heard about the death sentence, Badie voiced defiance, according to Osama Morsi, the son of the ousted president. On his Facebook page, Osama Morsi quoted Badie as saying: “If they execute me a thousand times, I swear in the name of God not to deviate from the truth.”

Defense lawyers in the mass trials boycotted the last month’s session to protest what they said was inadequate time to represent their clients. In the previous mass trial, a judicial official told The Associated Press that the judge didn’t have time to verify the defendants were present.

Ali Kamal, one of the defense lawyers, said Monday’s hearing lasted only eight minutes. Security forces surrounded the courthouse and blocked roads, preventing reporters and many relatives of the defendants from attending.

“This is against the spirit of the law,” Kamal said.

Evidence presented in the trial consisted mostly of video showing a Minya police station being attacked and looted and several government buildings being set ablaze. The defendants faced nearly 14 charges, five of them punishable by death, said a judicial official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information.

Once the Grand Mufti reviews Monday’s ruling, the same court will hold another session June 21 to issue the final verdicts. The ultimate decision is up to the judge.

As the ruling was announced, an outcry erupted outside court among the defendants’ relatives, with many accusing police of fabricating the case. Others denied any link by the defendants to the Muslim Brotherhood. Women fainted, wailed or cried out, “Why? This is unfair!”

A woman who only gave her first name, Samiya, screamed in grief: “My three sons are inside! I have no one but God!”

Mohammed Hassan Shehata said his son, Mahmoud, was only arrested in January, adding, “There is no evidence whatsoever. If my son is guilty, behead him. But if he is innocent, there will be a civil war.”

Gamal Sayyed, a 25-year-old teacher who belongs to the Brotherhood and spoke to The Associated Press from hiding, said he became a fugitive after he was arrested for three months and released pending investigation.

“This ruling is aimed at vilifying the group, creating in public minds images of devils, terrorists, and extremists,” he said. “This trial is crazy … but nothing is going to intimidate the youth in the streets protesting against this bloody coup.”

But some reaction in Cairo appeared to approve of the action as a way to restore security, reflecting a media campaign by the government.

“Even if they sentence a million people to death, so what?” said Sadeek el-Moghazi, a 43-year-old newspaper vendor in the eastern district of Heliopolis. “This is the best ruling in the history of the Egyptian judiciary.”

Michael reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Mariam Rizk and Laura Dean in Cairo and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

Egypt sentences 683 to death in another mass trial

KDWN

MINYA, Egypt (AP) — An Egyptian judge sentenced to death the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader and 682 other people Monday in the latest in a series of high-stakes mass trials that have been unprecedented in scope, drawing sharp condemnation from international rights groups.

The verdicts – which were appealed by general prosecutor- come as the military-backed government has launched a massive crackdown against Islamist supporters of ousted leader Mohammed Morsi, under the banner of “war against terrorism” while tightening its grip on the Arab world’s most populous nation.

Suggesting there might be room for reversal, the same judge also reduced the sentences against 529 defendants indicted in a similar case in March, upholding the death penalty for only 37 and commuting the rest to life imprisonment.

Still, the three dozen death sentences that were upheld was an extraordinarily high number for Egypt, compared to the dramatic trial in the wake of the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, when only five people were sentenced to death and executed.

Judge Said Youssef said he was referring Monday’s death sentences – which were for convictions of violence and killing policemen – to the Grand Mufti, the nation’s top Islamic official – a requirement under Egyptian law that is usually considered a formality but also gives room for the judge to change his mind. Of the 683, all but 68 were tried in absentia.

The government has conducted a series of mass trials of Brotherhood supporters after a crackdown in which hundreds were killed and nearly 16,000 detained. It also branded the Brotherhood a terrorist group, a claim the group denies.

Several secular-minded youth activists have been imprisoned for holding protests against a new law that prohibits the right to hold political gatherings without prior police permits. On Monday, a court ordered ban of April 6 youth group and confiscation of its offices. The group was among several that engineered the 2011 uprising against longtime leader Hosni Mubarak that set off nearly three-year turmoil.

“Egypt’s judiciary risks becoming just another part of the authorities’ repressive machinery, issuing sentences of death and life imprisonment on an industrial scale,” Amnesty International’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said.

She added that the case “once again expose how arbitrary and selective Egypt’s criminal justice system has become” and urged authorities to “come clean and acknowledge that the current system is neither fair nor independent or impartial.”

The highest profile defendant convicted and sentenced to death on Monday was Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide who – like several other heavy-weight Muslim Brotherhood leaders- had no official post in Morsi’s government but was believed to wield extensive influence on decision making during Morsi’s year in power. If his sentence is upheld, it would make him the most senior Brotherhood figure to receive capital punishment since one of the group’s leading ideologues, Sayed Qutb, was executed in 1966.

Badie was not at the hearing in Minya on Monday but in another court, in Cairo, where he faces charges of murder and incitement to murder along with 16 other Brotherhood leaders in a case connected to deadly protests outside the group’s headquarters last June.

The trials were linked to deadly riots that erupted in Minya and elsewhere in Egypt where Morsi’s supporters allegedly attacked police stations and churches in retaliation for security forces violent disbandment of sit-ins held by Morsi supporters in Cairo last August that left hundreds dead. The cases involve murder of three policemen and a civilian along with the injury of others.

After Monday’s ruling, which followed a single session in the case held last month, Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division, said the defendants were not given the chance to properly defend themselves. The proceedings went on without the judge even verifying that the defendants were present, she said.

“The fact that the death sentences can be appealed provides little solace to hundreds of families that will go to sleep tonight facing the very real prospect that their loves ones could be executed without having an opportunity to present a case in court,” she said. “There is no more serious violation of the most basic right of due process and the right to a fair trial than that.”

Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement that the verdicts “make a mockery of the rule of law.”

“The Egyptian authorities risk further destabilizing the country and cementing a political and social division ahead of the planned presidential elections in May,” he said.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt also criticized the verdict in a message posted on his Twitter account, saying “the world must and will react!” he said.

Once the mufti reviews Monday’s ruling, the same court will hold another session on June 21 to issue the final verdicts. The ultimate decision is up to the judge.

As the ruling was announced, an outcry erupted outside the court among the families and relatives of the defendants. Women fainted and wailed as many cried out, “Why? This is unfair!”

“My three sons are inside,” said a woman who only gave her first name, Samiya, as she screamed in grief. “I have no one but God.”

Mohammed Hassan Shehata said his son Mahmoud was arrested in January, six months after the alleged violence with which he was charged.

“There is no evidence whatsoever,” he said. “If my son is guilty, behead him but if he is innocent, there will be a civil war.”

Another woman who also only gave her first name, Safiya, 48, said her brother and son were sentenced to death. “I swear, they don’t even pray, they don’t go to mosques,” she said. “They are not Muslim Brotherhood.”

Gamal Sayyed, a 25-year-old school teacher who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood and was speaking to The Associated Press from hiding, said he became a fugitive after he was arrested for three months and released pending investigation last year.

“This ruling is aimed at vilifying the group, creating in public minds images of devils, terrorists, and extremists,” he said with a low voice. “This trial is crazy … but nothing is going to intimidate the youth in the streets protesting against this bloody coup.”

Defense lawyer Ali Kamal, said Monday’s hearing lasted only eight minutes. Security forces surrounded the court building and blocked roads, preventing families and media from attending the proceedings.

“This is against the spirit of the law,” Kamal said.

According to a judicial official who oversaw the investigation in the case, evidence presented in the trial consisted mostly of footage of the defendants showing them attacking and looting a police station in Cairo and setting fire to several government buildings. The defendants faced nearly 14 charges, five of them punishable by death, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information.

In a press conference in Istanbul, the Muslim Brotherhood-led alliance condemned Monday’s ruling and called it “a farce.”

But some among the general public in Cairo appeared to approve of the heavy-handed measures as a way to restore security or under the influence of a media campaign seeking to turn all dissent into conspiracy against national interests.

“Even if they sentence a million people to death, so what?” said Sadeek el-Moghazi, a 43-year-old newspaper vendor in the eastern district of Heliopolis. “This is the best ruling in the history of the Egyptian judiciary.”

Michael reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Mariam Rizk and Laura Dean contributed to this report from Cairo.

Egypt sentences 683 to death in another mass trial

KDWN

MINYA, Egypt (AP) — An Egyptian judge sentenced to death the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader and 682 other people Monday in the latest in a series of high-stakes mass trials that have been unprecedented in scope, drawing sharp condemnation from international rights groups.

The verdicts – which were appealed by general prosecutor- come as the military-backed government has launched a massive crackdown against Islamist supporters of ousted leader Mohammed Morsi, under the banner of “war against terrorism” while tightening its grip on the Arab world’s most populous nation.

Suggesting there might be room for reversal, the same judge also reduced the sentences against 529 defendants indicted in a similar case in March, upholding the death penalty for only 37 and commuting the rest to life imprisonment.

Still, the three dozen death sentences that were upheld was an extraordinarily high number for Egypt, compared to the dramatic trial in the wake of the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, when only five people were sentenced to death and executed.

Judge Said Youssef said he was referring Monday’s death sentences – which were for convictions of violence and killing policemen – to the Grand Mufti, the nation’s top Islamic official – a requirement under Egyptian law that is usually considered a formality but also gives room for the judge to change his mind. Of the 683, all but 68 were tried in absentia.

The government has conducted a series of mass trials of Brotherhood supporters after a crackdown in which hundreds were killed and nearly 16,000 detained. It also branded the Brotherhood a terrorist group, a claim the group denies.

Several secular-minded youth activists have been imprisoned for holding protests against a new law that prohibits the right to hold political gatherings without prior police permits. On Monday, a court ordered ban of April 6 youth group and confiscation of its offices. The group was among several that engineered the 2011 uprising against longtime leader Hosni Mubarak that set off nearly three-year turmoil.

“Egypt’s judiciary risks becoming just another part of the authorities’ repressive machinery, issuing sentences of death and life imprisonment on an industrial scale,” Amnesty International’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said.

She added that the case “once again expose how arbitrary and selective Egypt’s criminal justice system has become” and urged authorities to “come clean and acknowledge that the current system is neither fair nor independent or impartial.”

The highest profile defendant convicted and sentenced to death on Monday was Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide who – like several other heavy-weight Muslim Brotherhood leaders- had no official post in Morsi’s government but was believed to wield extensive influence on decision making during Morsi’s year in power. If his sentence is upheld, it would make him the most senior Brotherhood figure to receive capital punishment since one of the group’s leading ideologues, Sayed Qutb, was executed in 1966.

Badie was not at the hearing in Minya on Monday but in another court, in Cairo, where he faces charges of murder and incitement to murder along with 16 other Brotherhood leaders in a case connected to deadly protests outside the group’s headquarters last June.

The trials were linked to deadly riots that erupted in Minya and elsewhere in Egypt where Morsi’s supporters allegedly attacked police stations and churches in retaliation for security forces violent disbandment of sit-ins held by Morsi supporters in Cairo last August that left hundreds dead. The cases involve murder of three policemen and a civilian along with the injury of others.

After Monday’s ruling, which followed a single session in the case held last month, Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division, said the defendants were not given the chance to properly defend themselves. The proceedings went on without the judge even verifying that the defendants were present, she said.

“The fact that the death sentences can be appealed provides little solace to hundreds of families that will go to sleep tonight facing the very real prospect that their loves ones could be executed without having an opportunity to present a case in court,” she said. “There is no more serious violation of the most basic right of due process and the right to a fair trial than that.”

Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement that the verdicts “make a mockery of the rule of law.”

“The Egyptian authorities risk further destabilizing the country and cementing a political and social division ahead of the planned presidential elections in May,” he said.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt also criticized the verdict in a message posted on his Twitter account, saying “the world must and will react!” he said.

Once the mufti reviews Monday’s ruling, the same court will hold another session on June 21 to issue the final verdicts. The ultimate decision is up to the judge.

As the ruling was announced, an outcry erupted outside the court among the families and relatives of the defendants. Women fainted and wailed as many cried out, “Why? This is unfair!”

“My three sons are inside,” said a woman who only gave her first name, Samiya, as she screamed in grief. “I have no one but God.”

Mohammed Hassan Shehata said his son Mahmoud was arrested in January, six months after the alleged violence with which he was charged.

“There is no evidence whatsoever,” he said. “If my son is guilty, behead him but if he is innocent, there will be a civil war.”

Another woman who also only gave her first name, Safiya, 48, said her brother and son were sentenced to death. “I swear, they don’t even pray, they don’t go to mosques,” she said. “They are not Muslim Brotherhood.”

Gamal Sayyed, a 25-year-old school teacher who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood and was speaking to The Associated Press from hiding, said he became a fugitive after he was arrested for three months and released pending investigation last year.

“This ruling is aimed at vilifying the group, creating in public minds images of devils, terrorists, and extremists,” he said with a low voice. “This trial is crazy … but nothing is going to intimidate the youth in the streets protesting against this bloody coup.”

Defense lawyer Ali Kamal, said Monday’s hearing lasted only eight minutes. Security forces surrounded the court building and blocked roads, preventing families and media from attending the proceedings.

“This is against the spirit of the law,” Kamal said.

According to a judicial official who oversaw the investigation in the case, evidence presented in the trial consisted mostly of footage of the defendants showing them attacking and looting a police station in Cairo and setting fire to several government buildings. The defendants faced nearly 14 charges, five of them punishable by death, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information.

In a press conference in Istanbul, the Muslim Brotherhood-led alliance condemned Monday’s ruling and called it “a farce.”

But some among the general public in Cairo appeared to approve of the heavy-handed measures as a way to restore security or under the influence of a media campaign seeking to turn all dissent into conspiracy against national interests.

“Even if they sentence a million people to death, so what?” said Sadeek el-Moghazi, a 43-year-old newspaper vendor in the eastern district of Heliopolis. “This is the best ruling in the history of the Egyptian judiciary.”

Michael reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Mariam Rizk and Laura Dean contributed to this report from Cairo.

Egypt sentences 683 to death in another mass trial

KDWN

MINYA, Egypt (AP) — An Egyptian judge sentenced to death the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader and 682 other people Monday in the latest in a series of high-stakes mass trials that have been unprecedented in scope, drawing sharp condemnation from international rights groups.

The verdicts – which were appealed by general prosecutor- come as the military-backed government has launched a massive crackdown against Islamist supporters of ousted leader Mohammed Morsi, under the banner of “war against terrorism” while tightening its grip on the Arab world’s most populous nation.

Suggesting there might be room for reversal, the same judge also reduced the sentences against 529 defendants indicted in a similar case in March, upholding the death penalty for only 37 and commuting the rest to life imprisonment.

Still, the three dozen death sentences that were upheld was an extraordinarily high number for Egypt, compared to the dramatic trial in the wake of the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, when only five people were sentenced to death and executed.

Judge Said Youssef said he was referring Monday’s death sentences – which were for convictions of violence and killing policemen – to the Grand Mufti, the nation’s top Islamic official – a requirement under Egyptian law that is usually considered a formality but also gives room for the judge to change his mind. Of the 683, all but 68 were tried in absentia.

The government has conducted a series of mass trials of Brotherhood supporters after a crackdown in which hundreds were killed and nearly 16,000 detained. It also branded the Brotherhood a terrorist group, a claim the group denies.

Several secular-minded youth activists have been imprisoned for holding protests against a new law that prohibits the right to hold political gatherings without prior police permits. On Monday, a court ordered ban of April 6 youth group and confiscation of its offices. The group was among several that engineered the 2011 uprising against longtime leader Hosni Mubarak that set off nearly three-year turmoil.

“Egypt’s judiciary risks becoming just another part of the authorities’ repressive machinery, issuing sentences of death and life imprisonment on an industrial scale,” Amnesty International’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said.

She added that the case “once again expose how arbitrary and selective Egypt’s criminal justice system has become” and urged authorities to “come clean and acknowledge that the current system is neither fair nor independent or impartial.”

The highest profile defendant convicted and sentenced to death on Monday was Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide who – like several other heavy-weight Muslim Brotherhood leaders- had no official post in Morsi’s government but was believed to wield extensive influence on decision making during Morsi’s year in power. If his sentence is upheld, it would make him the most senior Brotherhood figure to receive capital punishment since one of the group’s leading ideologues, Sayed Qutb, was executed in 1966.

Badie was not at the hearing in Minya on Monday but in another court, in Cairo, where he faces charges of murder and incitement to murder along with 16 other Brotherhood leaders in a case connected to deadly protests outside the group’s headquarters last June.

The trials were linked to deadly riots that erupted in Minya and elsewhere in Egypt where Morsi’s supporters allegedly attacked police stations and churches in retaliation for security forces violent disbandment of sit-ins held by Morsi supporters in Cairo last August that left hundreds dead. The cases involve murder of three policemen and a civilian along with the injury of others.

After Monday’s ruling, which followed a single session in the case held last month, Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division, said the defendants were not given the chance to properly defend themselves. The proceedings went on without the judge even verifying that the defendants were present, she said.

“The fact that the death sentences can be appealed provides little solace to hundreds of families that will go to sleep tonight facing the very real prospect that their loves ones could be executed without having an opportunity to present a case in court,” she said. “There is no more serious violation of the most basic right of due process and the right to a fair trial than that.”

Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement that the verdicts “make a mockery of the rule of law.”

“The Egyptian authorities risk further destabilizing the country and cementing a political and social division ahead of the planned presidential elections in May,” he said.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt also criticized the verdict in a message posted on his Twitter account, saying “the world must and will react!” he said.

Once the mufti reviews Monday’s ruling, the same court will hold another session on June 21 to issue the final verdicts. The ultimate decision is up to the judge.

As the ruling was announced, an outcry erupted outside the court among the families and relatives of the defendants. Women fainted and wailed as many cried out, “Why? This is unfair!”

“My three sons are inside,” said a woman who only gave her first name, Samiya, as she screamed in grief. “I have no one but God.”

Mohammed Hassan Shehata said his son Mahmoud was arrested in January, six months after the alleged violence with which he was charged.

“There is no evidence whatsoever,” he said. “If my son is guilty, behead him but if he is innocent, there will be a civil war.”

Another woman who also only gave her first name, Safiya, 48, said her brother and son were sentenced to death. “I swear, they don’t even pray, they don’t go to mosques,” she said. “They are not Muslim Brotherhood.”

Gamal Sayyed, a 25-year-old school teacher who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood and was speaking to The Associated Press from hiding, said he became a fugitive after he was arrested for three months and released pending investigation last year.

“This ruling is aimed at vilifying the group, creating in public minds images of devils, terrorists, and extremists,” he said with a low voice. “This trial is crazy … but nothing is going to intimidate the youth in the streets protesting against this bloody coup.”

Defense lawyer Ali Kamal, said Monday’s hearing lasted only eight minutes. Security forces surrounded the court building and blocked roads, preventing families and media from attending the proceedings.

“This is against the spirit of the law,” Kamal said.

According to a judicial official who oversaw the investigation in the case, evidence presented in the trial consisted mostly of footage of the defendants showing them attacking and looting a police station in Cairo and setting fire to several government buildings. The defendants faced nearly 14 charges, five of them punishable by death, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information.

In a press conference in Istanbul, the Muslim Brotherhood-led alliance condemned Monday’s ruling and called it “a farce.”

But some among the general public in Cairo appeared to approve of the heavy-handed measures as a way to restore security or under the influence of a media campaign seeking to turn all dissent into conspiracy against national interests.

“Even if they sentence a million people to death, so what?” said Sadeek el-Moghazi, a 43-year-old newspaper vendor in the eastern district of Heliopolis. “This is the best ruling in the history of the Egyptian judiciary.”

Michael reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Mariam Rizk and Laura Dean contributed to this report from Cairo.

Egypt sentences 683 to death in another mass trial

KDWN

MINYA, Egypt (AP) — An Egyptian judge sentenced to death the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader and 682 other people Monday in the latest in a series of high-stakes mass trials that have been unprecedented in scope, drawing sharp condemnation from international rights groups.

The verdicts – which were appealed by general prosecutor- come as the military-backed government has launched a massive crackdown against Islamist supporters of ousted leader Mohammed Morsi, under the banner of “war against terrorism” while tightening its grip on the Arab world’s most populous nation.

Suggesting there might be room for reversal, the same judge also reduced the sentences against 529 defendants indicted in a similar case in March, upholding the death penalty for only 37 and commuting the rest to life imprisonment.

Still, the three dozen death sentences that were upheld was an extraordinarily high number for Egypt, compared to the dramatic trial in the wake of the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, when only five people were sentenced to death and executed.

Judge Said Youssef said he was referring Monday’s death sentences – which were for convictions of violence and killing policemen – to the Grand Mufti, the nation’s top Islamic official – a requirement under Egyptian law that is usually considered a formality but also gives room for the judge to change his mind. Of the 683, all but 68 were tried in absentia.

The government has conducted a series of mass trials of Brotherhood supporters after a crackdown in which hundreds were killed and nearly 16,000 detained. It also branded the Brotherhood a terrorist group, a claim the group denies.

Several secular-minded youth activists have been imprisoned for holding protests against a new law that prohibits the right to hold political gatherings without prior police permits. On Monday, a court ordered ban of April 6 youth group and confiscation of its offices. The group was among several that engineered the 2011 uprising against longtime leader Hosni Mubarak that set off nearly three-year turmoil.

“Egypt’s judiciary risks becoming just another part of the authorities’ repressive machinery, issuing sentences of death and life imprisonment on an industrial scale,” Amnesty International’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said.

She added that the case “once again expose how arbitrary and selective Egypt’s criminal justice system has become” and urged authorities to “come clean and acknowledge that the current system is neither fair nor independent or impartial.”

The highest profile defendant convicted and sentenced to death on Monday was Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide who – like several other heavy-weight Muslim Brotherhood leaders- had no official post in Morsi’s government but was believed to wield extensive influence on decision making during Morsi’s year in power. If his sentence is upheld, it would make him the most senior Brotherhood figure to receive capital punishment since one of the group’s leading ideologues, Sayed Qutb, was executed in 1966.

Badie was not at the hearing in Minya on Monday but in another court, in Cairo, where he faces charges of murder and incitement to murder along with 16 other Brotherhood leaders in a case connected to deadly protests outside the group’s headquarters last June.

The trials were linked to deadly riots that erupted in Minya and elsewhere in Egypt where Morsi’s supporters allegedly attacked police stations and churches in retaliation for security forces violent disbandment of sit-ins held by Morsi supporters in Cairo last August that left hundreds dead. The cases involve murder of three policemen and a civilian along with the injury of others.

After Monday’s ruling, which followed a single session in the case held last month, Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division, said the defendants were not given the chance to properly defend themselves. The proceedings went on without the judge even verifying that the defendants were present, she said.

“The fact that the death sentences can be appealed provides little solace to hundreds of families that will go to sleep tonight facing the very real prospect that their loves ones could be executed without having an opportunity to present a case in court,” she said. “There is no more serious violation of the most basic right of due process and the right to a fair trial than that.”

Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement that the verdicts “make a mockery of the rule of law.”

“The Egyptian authorities risk further destabilizing the country and cementing a political and social division ahead of the planned presidential elections in May,” he said.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt also criticized the verdict in a message posted on his Twitter account, saying “the world must and will react!” he said.

Once the mufti reviews Monday’s ruling, the same court will hold another session on June 21 to issue the final verdicts. The ultimate decision is up to the judge.

As the ruling was announced, an outcry erupted outside the court among the families and relatives of the defendants. Women fainted and wailed as many cried out, “Why? This is unfair!”

“My three sons are inside,” said a woman who only gave her first name, Samiya, as she screamed in grief. “I have no one but God.”

Mohammed Hassan Shehata said his son Mahmoud was arrested in January, six months after the alleged violence with which he was charged.

“There is no evidence whatsoever,” he said. “If my son is guilty, behead him but if he is innocent, there will be a civil war.”

Another woman who also only gave her first name, Safiya, 48, said her brother and son were sentenced to death. “I swear, they don’t even pray, they don’t go to mosques,” she said. “They are not Muslim Brotherhood.”

Gamal Sayyed, a 25-year-old school teacher who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood and was speaking to The Associated Press from hiding, said he became a fugitive after he was arrested for three months and released pending investigation last year.

“This ruling is aimed at vilifying the group, creating in public minds images of devils, terrorists, and extremists,” he said with a low voice. “This trial is crazy … but nothing is going to intimidate the youth in the streets protesting against this bloody coup.”

Defense lawyer Ali Kamal, said Monday’s hearing lasted only eight minutes. Security forces surrounded the court building and blocked roads, preventing families and media from attending the proceedings.

“This is against the spirit of the law,” Kamal said.

According to a judicial official who oversaw the investigation in the case, evidence presented in the trial consisted mostly of footage of the defendants showing them attacking and looting a police station in Cairo and setting fire to several government buildings. The defendants faced nearly 14 charges, five of them punishable by death, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information.

In a press conference in Istanbul, the Muslim Brotherhood-led alliance condemned Monday’s ruling and called it “a farce.”

But some among the general public in Cairo appeared to approve of the heavy-handed measures as a way to restore security or under the influence of a media campaign seeking to turn all dissent into conspiracy against national interests.

“Even if they sentence a million people to death, so what?” said Sadeek el-Moghazi, a 43-year-old newspaper vendor in the eastern district of Heliopolis. “This is the best ruling in the history of the Egyptian judiciary.”

Michael reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Mariam Rizk and Laura Dean contributed to this report from Cairo.

Egypt sentences 683 to death in another mass trial

KDWN

MINYA, Egypt (AP) — A judge in Egypt on Monday sentenced to death 683 alleged supporters of the country’s ousted Islamist president, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, the latest in mass trials that have drawn international condemnation and stunned rights groups.

The same judge also upheld the death penalty for 37 of 529 defendants sentenced in a similar case in March, though he commuted the rest of the sentences to life imprisonment.

Still, the 37 death sentences – which can be appealed in a higher court – remain an extraordinarily high number for Egypt, compared to the dramatic trial in the wake of the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, when only five people were sentenced to death and executed.

Among those convicted and sentenced to death on Monday was Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide. If his sentence is confirmed, it would make him the most senior Brotherhood figure sentenced to death since one of the group’s leading ideologues, Sayed Qutb, was sentenced and executed in 1966.

In announcing the 683 death sentences for violence and the killing of policemen, Judge Said Youssef on Monday also said he was referring his ruling to the Grand Mufti, the nation’s top Islamic official – a requirement under Egyptian law, but one that is considered a formality. It does, however, give a window of opportunity for a judge to reverse an initial sentence.

Both Monday’s and the March trial are linked to deadly riots that erupted in Minya and elsewhere in Egypt after security forces violently disbanded sit-ins held by Brotherhood supporters in Cairo last August. Three policemen and a civilian were killed in those riots.

Hundreds were killed as part of a sweeping campaign against supporters of former President Mohammed Morsi, ousted by the military last July. The removal of Morsi – a year after he was elected – came after millions demonstrated against his rule, demanding he step down for abuse of power.

After Monday’s ruling, which followed a single session in the case held last month, Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division, said the defendants were not given the chance to properly defend themselves. The proceedings went on without the judge even verifying that the defendants were present, she said.

“The fact that the death sentences can be appealed provides little solace to hundreds of families that will go to sleep tonight facing the very real prospect that their loves ones could be executed without having an opportunity to present a case in court,” she said. “There is no more serious violation of the most basic right of due process and the right to a fair trial than that.”

Badie was not at the hearing in Minya on Monday but in another court, in Cairo, where he faces charges of murder and incitement to murder along with 16 other Brotherhood leaders in a case connected to deadly protests outside the group’s headquarters last June.

Once the Mufti reviews Monday’s ruling, the same court will hold another session on June 21 to issue the final verdicts.

As the ruling was announced, an outcry erupted outside the court among the families and relatives of the defendants. Women fainted and wailed as many cried out, “Why? This is unfair!”

“My three sons are inside,” said a woman who only gave her first name, Samiya, as she screamed in grief. “I have no one but God.”

Sitting on the pavement in front of the police cordon, 58-year-old Fatma, who also would not give her second name fearing for her relative on trial, broke into tears and screamed: “This judge is a butcher.”

The father of another defendant, Mohammed Hassan Shehata, said his son Mahmoud was arrested in January, six months after the alleged violence he was charged with.

“There is no evidence whatsoever,” he said. “If my son is guilty, behead him but if he is innocent, there will be a civil war.”

Another woman who also only gave her first name, Safiya, 48, could not believe her brother and son were sentenced to death. “I swear, they don’t even pray, they don’t go to mosques,” she said. “They are not Muslim Brotherhood.”

Lawyer Ali Kamal, said Monday’s hearing lasted only eight minutes. Security forces surrounded the court building and blocked roads, preventing families and media from attending the proceedings.

“This is against the spirit of the law,” Kamal said.

But in the capital, Cairo, where many are strongly anti-Brotherhood, several residents said they approved of the death sentences.

“Even if they sentence a million people to death, so what?” said Sadeek el-Moghazi, a 43-year-old newspaper seller in the eastern district of Heliopolis. “This is the best ruling in the history of the Egyptian judiciary.”

Howaida, a 40-year-old conservative woman who also only gave her first name, said she welcome the ruling because the Brotherhood “did nothing good to the country when they ruled.”

According to a judicial official who oversaw the investigation in the case, evidence presented in the trial consisted mostly of footage of the defendants showing them attacking and looting a police station in Cairo and setting fire to several government buildings. The defendants faced nearly 14 charges, five of them punishable by death, said the official.

“This is a public opinion case, there must be a swift, deterrent punishment,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. “Yes, the verdict is very harsh, the number of people on trial is shocking, but it’s proportional to the crimes.”

If the “Grand Mufti upholds the death sentences for all or recommends reversing them, it won’t mean anything to the judge,” he added. “Only the judge has the right and the power to reverse his earlier decisions.”

In the surprise reversal on Monday, the judge commuted the death sentences for all but 37 defendants in the March trial of 529 alleged Islamist supporters. The remaining defendants were given life sentences.

The March ruling had brought heavy international criticism from the United Nations, United States and European Union.

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

Egypt’s interim, military-backed government has branded the Brotherhood a terrorist group, a claim it denies.

Some 16,000 people have been arrested since the military ousted Morsi last July, including most of the group’s top leaders. Large numbers of pro-Morsi protesters have also been rounded up and detained by police.

In a press conference in Istanbul, the Muslim Brotherhood-led alliance condemned Monday’s ruling and described it as “a farce.”

In a separate development, an Egyptian court on Monday banned the April 6 youth movement that helped engineer the 2011 uprising that led to the ouster of longtime autocratic President Hosni Mubarak.

That ruling was seen by activists as part of a government- orchestrated campaign to stifle opposition and dissent. It can be suspended by a higher tribunal.

A Cairo court ruled in a suit filed by a lawyer who demanded the banning of the youth group over allegations it “tarnished the image of the Egyptian state” and conspired against the country’s national interests.

Leaders of April 6 – Ahmed Maher and Mohammed Adel – have been jailed for violating a new protest law that requires that any demonstration must have a police permit.

Michael reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Mariam Rizk and Laura Dean contributed to this report from Cairo.

Egypt sentences 683 to death in another mass trial

KDWN

MINYA, Egypt (AP) — A judge in Egypt on Monday sentenced to death 683 alleged supporters of the country’s ousted Islamist president, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, the latest in mass trials that have drawn international condemnation and stunned rights groups.

The same judge also upheld the death penalty for 37 of 529 defendants sentenced in a similar case in March, though he commuted the rest of the sentences to life imprisonment.

Still, the 37 death sentences – which can be appealed in a higher court – remain an extraordinarily high number for Egypt, compared to the dramatic trial in the wake of the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, when only five people were sentenced to death and executed.

Among those convicted and sentenced to death on Monday was Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide. If his sentence is confirmed, it would make him the most senior Brotherhood figure sentenced to death since one of the group’s leading ideologues, Sayed Qutb, was sentenced and executed in 1966.

In announcing the 683 death sentences for violence and the killing of policemen, Judge Said Youssef on Monday also said he was referring his ruling to the Grand Mufti, the nation’s top Islamic official – a requirement under Egyptian law, but one that is considered a formality. It does, however, give a window of opportunity for a judge to reverse an initial sentence.

Both Monday’s and the March trial are linked to deadly riots that erupted in Minya and elsewhere in Egypt after security forces violently disbanded sit-ins held by Brotherhood supporters in Cairo last August. Three policemen and a civilian were killed in those riots.

Hundreds were killed as part of a sweeping campaign against supporters of former President Mohammed Morsi, ousted by the military last July. The removal of Morsi – a year after he was elected – came after millions demonstrated against his rule, demanding he step down for abuse of power.

After Monday’s ruling, which followed a single session in the case held last month, Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division, said the defendants were not given the chance to properly defend themselves. The proceedings went on without the judge even verifying that the defendants were present, she said.

“The fact that the death sentences can be appealed provides little solace to hundreds of families that will go to sleep tonight facing the very real prospect that their loves ones could be executed without having an opportunity to present a case in court,” she said. “There is no more serious violation of the most basic right of due process and the right to a fair trial than that.”

Badie was not at the hearing in Minya on Monday but in another court, in Cairo, where he faces charges of murder and incitement to murder along with 16 other Brotherhood leaders in a case connected to deadly protests outside the group’s headquarters last June.

Once the Mufti reviews Monday’s ruling, the same court will hold another session on June 21 to issue the final verdicts.

As the ruling was announced, an outcry erupted outside the court among the families and relatives of the defendants. Women fainted and wailed as many cried out, “Why? This is unfair!”

“My three sons are inside,” said a woman who only gave her first name, Samiya, as she screamed in grief. “I have no one but God.”

Sitting on the pavement in front of the police cordon, 58-year-old Fatma, who also would not give her second name fearing for her relative on trial, broke into tears and screamed: “This judge is a butcher.”

The father of another defendant, Mohammed Hassan Shehata, said his son Mahmoud was arrested in January, six months after the alleged violence he was charged with.

“There is no evidence whatsoever,” he said. “If my son is guilty, behead him but if he is innocent, there will be a civil war.”

Another woman who also only gave her first name, Safiya, 48, could not believe her brother and son were sentenced to death. “I swear, they don’t even pray, they don’t go to mosques,” she said. “They are not Muslim Brotherhood.”

Lawyer Ali Kamal, said Monday’s hearing lasted only eight minutes. Security forces surrounded the court building and blocked roads, preventing families and media from attending the proceedings.

“This is against the spirit of the law,” Kamal said.

But in the capital, Cairo, where many are strongly anti-Brotherhood, several residents said they approved of the death sentences.

“Even if they sentence a million people to death, so what?” said Sadeek el-Moghazi, a 43-year-old newspaper seller in the eastern district of Heliopolis. “This is the best ruling in the history of the Egyptian judiciary.”

Howaida, a 40-year-old conservative woman who also only gave her first name, said she welcome the ruling because the Brotherhood “did nothing good to the country when they ruled.”

According to a judicial official who oversaw the investigation in the case, evidence presented in the trial consisted mostly of footage of the defendants showing them attacking and looting a police station in Cairo and setting fire to several government buildings. The defendants faced nearly 14 charges, five of them punishable by death, said the official.

“This is a public opinion case, there must be a swift, deterrent punishment,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. “Yes, the verdict is very harsh, the number of people on trial is shocking, but it’s proportional to the crimes.”

If the “Grand Mufti upholds the death sentences for all or recommends reversing them, it won’t mean anything to the judge,” he added. “Only the judge has the right and the power to reverse his earlier decisions.”

In the surprise reversal on Monday, the judge commuted the death sentences for all but 37 defendants in the March trial of 529 alleged Islamist supporters. The remaining defendants were given life sentences.

The March ruling had brought heavy international criticism from the United Nations, United States and European Union.

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

Egypt’s interim, military-backed government has branded the Brotherhood a terrorist group, a claim it denies.

Some 16,000 people have been arrested since the military ousted Morsi last July, including most of the group’s top leaders. Large numbers of pro-Morsi protesters have also been rounded up and detained by police.

In a press conference in Istanbul, the Muslim Brotherhood-led alliance condemned Monday’s ruling and described it as “a farce.”

In a separate development, an Egyptian court on Monday banned the April 6 youth movement that helped engineer the 2011 uprising that led to the ouster of longtime autocratic President Hosni Mubarak.

That ruling was seen by activists as part of a government- orchestrated campaign to stifle opposition and dissent. It can be suspended by a higher tribunal.

A Cairo court ruled in a suit filed by a lawyer who demanded the banning of the youth group over allegations it “tarnished the image of the Egyptian state” and conspired against the country’s national interests.

Leaders of April 6 – Ahmed Maher and Mohammed Adel – have been jailed for violating a new protest law that requires that any demonstration must have a police permit.

Michael reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Mariam Rizk and Laura Dean contributed to this report from Cairo.

Egypt sentences 683 to death in another mass trial

KDWN

MINYA, Egypt (AP) — A judge in Egypt on Monday sentenced to death 683 alleged supporters of the country’s ousted Islamist president, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, the latest in mass trials that have drawn international condemnation and stunned rights groups.

The same judge also upheld the death penalty for 37 of 529 defendants sentenced in a similar case in March, though he commuted the rest of the sentences to life imprisonment.

Still, the 37 death sentences – which can be appealed in a higher court – remain an extraordinarily high number for Egypt, compared to the dramatic trial in the wake of the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, when only five people were sentenced to death and executed.

Among those convicted and sentenced to death on Monday was Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide. If his sentence is confirmed, it would make him the most senior Brotherhood figure sentenced to death since one of the group’s leading ideologues, Sayed Qutb, was sentenced and executed in 1966.

In announcing the 683 death sentences for violence and the killing of policemen, Judge Said Youssef on Monday also said he was referring his ruling to the Grand Mufti, the nation’s top Islamic official – a requirement under Egyptian law, but one that is considered a formality. It does, however, give a window of opportunity for a judge to reverse an initial sentence.

Both Monday’s and the March trial are linked to deadly riots that erupted in Minya and elsewhere in Egypt after security forces violently disbanded sit-ins held by Brotherhood supporters in Cairo last August. Three policemen and a civilian were killed in those riots.

Hundreds were killed as part of a sweeping campaign against supporters of former President Mohammed Morsi, ousted by the military last July. The removal of Morsi – a year after he was elected – came after millions demonstrated against his rule, demanding he step down for abuse of power.

After Monday’s ruling, which followed a single session in the case held last month, Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division, said the defendants were not given the chance to properly defend themselves. The proceedings went on without the judge even verifying that the defendants were present, she said.

“The fact that the death sentences can be appealed provides little solace to hundreds of families that will go to sleep tonight facing the very real prospect that their loves ones could be executed without having an opportunity to present a case in court,” she said. “There is no more serious violation of the most basic right of due process and the right to a fair trial than that.”

Badie was not at the hearing in Minya on Monday but in another court, in Cairo, where he faces charges of murder and incitement to murder along with 16 other Brotherhood leaders in a case connected to deadly protests outside the group’s headquarters last June.

Once the Mufti reviews Monday’s ruling, the same court will hold another session on June 21 to issue the final verdicts.

As the ruling was announced, an outcry erupted outside the court among the families and relatives of the defendants. Women fainted and wailed as many cried out, “Why? This is unfair!”

“My three sons are inside,” said a woman who only gave her first name, Samiya, as she screamed in grief. “I have no one but God.”

Sitting on the pavement in front of the police cordon, 58-year-old Fatma, who also would not give her second name fearing for her relative on trial, broke into tears and screamed: “This judge is a butcher.”

The father of another defendant, Mohammed Hassan Shehata, said his son Mahmoud was arrested in January, six months after the alleged violence he was charged with.

“There is no evidence whatsoever,” he said. “If my son is guilty, behead him but if he is innocent, there will be a civil war.”

Another woman who also only gave her first name, Safiya, 48, could not believe her brother and son were sentenced to death. “I swear, they don’t even pray, they don’t go to mosques,” she said. “They are not Muslim Brotherhood.”

Lawyer Ali Kamal, said Monday’s hearing lasted only eight minutes. Security forces surrounded the court building and blocked roads, preventing families and media from attending the proceedings.

“This is against the spirit of the law,” Kamal said.

But in the capital, Cairo, where many are strongly anti-Brotherhood, several residents said they approved of the death sentences.

“Even if they sentence a million people to death, so what?” said Sadeek el-Moghazi, a 43-year-old newspaper seller in the eastern district of Heliopolis. “This is the best ruling in the history of the Egyptian judiciary.”

Howaida, a 40-year-old conservative woman who also only gave her first name, said she welcome the ruling because the Brotherhood “did nothing good to the country when they ruled.”

According to a judicial official who oversaw the investigation in the case, evidence presented in the trial consisted mostly of footage of the defendants showing them attacking and looting a police station in Cairo and setting fire to several government buildings. The defendants faced nearly 14 charges, five of them punishable by death, said the official.

“This is a public opinion case, there must be a swift, deterrent punishment,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. “Yes, the verdict is very harsh, the number of people on trial is shocking, but it’s proportional to the crimes.”

If the “Grand Mufti upholds the death sentences for all or recommends reversing them, it won’t mean anything to the judge,” he added. “Only the judge has the right and the power to reverse his earlier decisions.”

In the surprise reversal on Monday, the judge commuted the death sentences for all but 37 defendants in the March trial of 529 alleged Islamist supporters. The remaining defendants were given life sentences.

The March ruling had brought heavy international criticism from the United Nations, United States and European Union.

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

Egypt’s interim, military-backed government has branded the Brotherhood a terrorist group, a claim it denies.

Some 16,000 people have been arrested since the military ousted Morsi last July, including most of the group’s top leaders. Large numbers of pro-Morsi protesters have also been rounded up and detained by police.

In a press conference in Istanbul, the Muslim Brotherhood-led alliance condemned Monday’s ruling and described it as “a farce.”

In a separate development, an Egyptian court on Monday banned the April 6 youth movement that helped engineer the 2011 uprising that led to the ouster of longtime autocratic President Hosni Mubarak.

That ruling was seen by activists as part of a government- orchestrated campaign to stifle opposition and dissent. It can be suspended by a higher tribunal.

A Cairo court ruled in a suit filed by a lawyer who demanded the banning of the youth group over allegations it “tarnished the image of the Egyptian state” and conspired against the country’s national interests.

Leaders of April 6 – Ahmed Maher and Mohammed Adel – have been jailed for violating a new protest law that requires that any demonstration must have a police permit.

Michael reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Mariam Rizk and Laura Dean contributed to this report from Cairo.

Egypt sentences 683 to death in another mass trial

KDWN

MINYA, Egypt (AP) — A judge in Egypt on Monday sentenced to death 683 alleged supporters of the country’s ousted Islamist president, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, the latest in mass trials that have drawn international condemnation and stunned rights groups.

The same judge also upheld the death penalty for 37 of 529 defendants sentenced in a similar case in March, though he commuted the rest of the sentences to life imprisonment.

Still, the 37 death sentences – which can be appealed in a higher court – remain an extraordinarily high number for Egypt, compared to the dramatic trial in the wake of the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, when only five people were sentenced to death and executed.

Among those convicted and sentenced to death on Monday was Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide. If his sentence is confirmed, it would make him the most senior Brotherhood figure sentenced to death since one of the group’s leading ideologues, Sayed Qutb, was sentenced and executed in 1966.

In announcing the 683 death sentences for violence and the killing of policemen, Judge Said Youssef on Monday also said he was referring his ruling to the Grand Mufti, the nation’s top Islamic official – a requirement under Egyptian law, but one that is considered a formality. It does, however, give a window of opportunity for a judge to reverse an initial sentence.

Both Monday’s and the March trial are linked to deadly riots that erupted in Minya and elsewhere in Egypt after security forces violently disbanded sit-ins held by Brotherhood supporters in Cairo last August. Three policemen and a civilian were killed in those riots.

Hundreds were killed as part of a sweeping campaign against supporters of former President Mohammed Morsi, ousted by the military last July. The removal of Morsi – a year after he was elected – came after millions demonstrated against his rule, demanding he step down for abuse of power.

After Monday’s ruling, which followed a single session in the case held last month, Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division, said the defendants were not given the chance to properly defend themselves. The proceedings went on without the judge even verifying that the defendants were present, she said.

“The fact that the death sentences can be appealed provides little solace to hundreds of families that will go to sleep tonight facing the very real prospect that their loves ones could be executed without having an opportunity to present a case in court,” she said. “There is no more serious violation of the most basic right of due process and the right to a fair trial than that.”

Badie was not at the hearing in Minya on Monday but in another court, in Cairo, where he faces charges of murder and incitement to murder along with 16 other Brotherhood leaders in a case connected to deadly protests outside the group’s headquarters last June.

Once the Mufti reviews Monday’s ruling, the same court will hold another session on June 21 to issue the final verdicts.

As the ruling was announced, an outcry erupted outside the court among the families and relatives of the defendants. Women fainted and wailed as many cried out, “Why? This is unfair!”

“My three sons are inside,” said a woman who only gave her first name, Samiya, as she screamed in grief. “I have no one but God.”

Sitting on the pavement in front of the police cordon, 58-year-old Fatma, who also would not give her second name fearing for her relative on trial, broke into tears and screamed: “This judge is a butcher.”

The father of another defendant, Mohammed Hassan Shehata, said his son Mahmoud was arrested in January, six months after the alleged violence he was charged with.

“There is no evidence whatsoever,” he said. “If my son is guilty, behead him but if he is innocent, there will be a civil war.”

Another woman who also only gave her first name, Safiya, 48, could not believe her brother and son were sentenced to death. “I swear, they don’t even pray, they don’t go to mosques,” she said. “They are not Muslim Brotherhood.”

Lawyer Ali Kamal, said Monday’s hearing lasted only eight minutes. Security forces surrounded the court building and blocked roads, preventing families and media from attending the proceedings.

“This is against the spirit of the law,” Kamal said.

But in the capital, Cairo, where many are strongly anti-Brotherhood, several residents said they approved of the death sentences.

“Even if they sentence a million people to death, so what?” said Sadeek el-Moghazi, a 43-year-old newspaper seller in the eastern district of Heliopolis. “This is the best ruling in the history of the Egyptian judiciary.”

Howaida, a 40-year-old conservative woman who also only gave her first name, said she welcome the ruling because the Brotherhood “did nothing good to the country when they ruled.”

According to a judicial official who oversaw the investigation in the case, evidence presented in the trial consisted mostly of footage of the defendants showing them attacking and looting a police station in Cairo and setting fire to several government buildings. The defendants faced nearly 14 charges, five of them punishable by death, said the official.

“This is a public opinion case, there must be a swift, deterrent punishment,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. “Yes, the verdict is very harsh, the number of people on trial is shocking, but it’s proportional to the crimes.”

If the “Grand Mufti upholds the death sentences for all or recommends reversing them, it won’t mean anything to the judge,” he added. “Only the judge has the right and the power to reverse his earlier decisions.”

In the surprise reversal on Monday, the judge commuted the death sentences for all but 37 defendants in the March trial of 529 alleged Islamist supporters. The remaining defendants were given life sentences.

The March ruling had brought heavy international criticism from the United Nations, United States and European Union.

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

Egypt’s interim, military-backed government has branded the Brotherhood a terrorist group, a claim it denies.

Some 16,000 people have been arrested since the military ousted Morsi last July, including most of the group’s top leaders. Large numbers of pro-Morsi protesters have also been rounded up and detained by police.

In a press conference in Istanbul, the Muslim Brotherhood-led alliance condemned Monday’s ruling and described it as “a farce.”

In a separate development, an Egyptian court on Monday banned the April 6 youth movement that helped engineer the 2011 uprising that led to the ouster of longtime autocratic President Hosni Mubarak.

That ruling was seen by activists as part of a government- orchestrated campaign to stifle opposition and dissent. It can be suspended by a higher tribunal.

A Cairo court ruled in a suit filed by a lawyer who demanded the banning of the youth group over allegations it “tarnished the image of the Egyptian state” and conspired against the country’s national interests.

Leaders of April 6 – Ahmed Maher and Mohammed Adel – have been jailed for violating a new protest law that requires that any demonstration must have a police permit.

Michael reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Mariam Rizk and Laura Dean contributed to this report from Cairo.

Egypt sentences 683 to death in another mass trial

KDWN

MINYA, Egypt (AP) — A judge in Egypt on Monday sentenced to death 683 alleged supporters of the country’s ousted Islamist president, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, the latest in mass trials that have drawn international condemnation and stunned rights groups.

The same judge also upheld the death penalty for 37 of 529 defendants sentenced in a similar case in March, though he commuted the rest to life imprisonment.

Still, the 37 death sentences – which can be appealed in a higher court – remain an extraordinarily high number for Egypt, compared to the dramatic trial in the wake of the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, when only five people were sentenced to death and executed.

In announcing the 683 death sentences for violence and the killing of policemen, Judge Said Youssef on Monday also said he was referring his ruling on the to the Grand Mufti, the nation’s top Islamic official – a requirement under Egyptian law, but one that is considered a formality.

Both Monday’s and the March trial are linked to deadly riots that erupted in Minya and elsewhere in Egypt after security forces violently disbanded sit-ins held by Brotherhood supporters in Cairo last August.

Hundreds were killed as part of a sweeping campaign against supporters of former President Mohammed Morsi, ousted by the military last July. The removal of Morsi – a year after he was elected – came after millions demonstrated against his rule, demanding he step down for abuse of power.

Among those convicted and sentenced to death on Monday was Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide. If his sentence is confirmed, it would make him the most senior Brotherhood figure sentenced to death since one of the group’s leading ideologues, Sayed Qutb, was executed in 1966.

Badie, who was not present during the hearing in Minya, was in another court, in Cairo, where he faces charges of murder and incitement to murder along with 16 other Brotherhood leaders in a case connected to deadly protests outside the group’s headquarters last June.

Once the Mufti reviews Monday’s ruling, the same court will hold another session on June 21 to issue the final verdicts.

As the ruling was announced, an outcry erupted outside the court among the families and relatives of the defendants. Women fainted and wailed and many cried out “Why? This is unfair!”

“My three sons are inside,” said a woman who only gave her first name, Samiya, as she screamed in grief. “I have no one but God.”

Sitting on the pavement in front of the police cordon, 58-year-old Fatma, who also would not give her second name fearing for her relative on trial, broke into tears and screamed: “This judge is a butcher.”

The father of another defendant, Mohammed Hassan Shehata, said his son Mahmoud was arrested in January, six months after the alleged violence he was charged with.

“There is no evidence whatsoever,” he said. “If my son is guilty, behead him but if he is innocent, there will be a civil war.”

Lawyer Ali Kamal, said Monday’s hearing lasted only eight minutes. Security forces surrounded the court building and blocked roads, preventing families and media from attending the proceedings.

“This is against the spirit of the law,” Kamal said.

According to a judicial official who oversaw the investigation in the case, evidence presented in the trial consisted mostly of footage of the defendants showing them attacking and looting a police station in Cairo and setting fire to several government buildings. The defendants faced nearly 14 charges, five of them punishable by death, said the official.

“This is a public opinion case, there must be a swift, deterrent punishment,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. “Yes, the verdict is very harsh, the number of people on trial is shocking, but it’s proportional to the crimes.”

If the “Grand Mufti upholds the death sentences for all or recommends reversing them, it won’t mean anything to the judge,” he added. “Only the judge has the right and the power to reverse his earlier decisions.”

In the surprise reversal on Monday, the judge commuted the death sentences for all but 37 defendants in the March trial of 529 alleged Islamist supporters. The remaining defendants were given life sentences.

The March ruling had brought heavy international criticism from the United Nations, United States and European Union.

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

Egypt’s interim, military-backed government has branded the Brotherhood a terrorist group, a claim it denies.

Some 16,000 people have been arrested since the military ousted Morsi last July, including most of the group’s top leaders. Large numbers of pro-Morsi protesters have also been rounded up and detained by police.

In a separate development, an Egyptian court on Monday banned the April 6 youth movement that helped engineer the 2011 uprising that led to the ouster of longtime autocratic President Hosni Mubarak.

That ruling was seen by activists as part of a government- orchestrated campaign to stifle opposition and dissent. It can be suspended by a higher tribunal.

A Cairo court ruled in a suit filed by a lawyer who demanded the banning of the youth group over allegations it “tarnished the image of the Egyptian state” and conspired against the country’s national interests.

Leaders of April 6 – Ahmed Maher and Mohammed Adel – have been jailed for violating a new protest law that requires that any demonstration must have a police permit.

Michael reported from Cairo.