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Egypt sentences 529 Morsi supporters to death



BY MAGGIE MICHAEL
ASSOCIATED PRESS

CAIRO (AP) -- A court in Egypt on Monday sentenced to death 529 supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi on charges of murdering a policeman and attacking police, convicting them after only two sessions in one of the largest mass trials in the country in decades.

The verdicts are subject to appeal and would likely be overturned, rights lawyers said. But they said the swiftness and harshness of the rulings on such a large scale underlined the extent to which Egypt's courts have been politicized and due process has been ignored amid a sweeping crackdown on Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood supporters since the military removed the president last summer.

The first of the trial's two sessions in a court in the city of Minya, south of Cairo, saw furious arguments as the judge angrily rejected requests by defense lawyers for more time to let them review the trial documents for the hundreds of defendants. In Monday's session when the verdicts and sentences were read, security forces barred defense lawyers from attending, one of the lawyers, Yasser Zidan, told The Associated Press.

"This is way over the top and unacceptable," said attorney Mohammed Zarie, who heads a rights center in Cairo. "It turns the judiciary in Egypt from a tool for achieving justice to an instrument for taking revenge."

"This verdict could be a precedent both in the history of Egyptian courts and perhaps, tribunals elsewhere in the world," he added.

All but around 150 of the defendants in the case were tried in absentia by the court in the city of Minya, south of Cairo. The judges acquitted 16 defendants.

Egypt has seen a string of mass trials of Morsi supporters in recent weeks, usually over charges of violence in connection to Islamist protests against Morsi's removal and the crackdown.

The 545 defendants in the case were charged with murder, attempted murder and stealing government weapons in connection with an attack on a police station in August in the town of Matay in Minya province. One police officer was killed in the attack. The violence was part of rioting around the country sparked when security forces stormed two pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo, killing hundreds of people on Aug. 14.

During the first session on Saturday, defense lawyer Khaled el-Koumi said that he and other lawyers asked the presiding judge, Said Youssef, to postpone the case to give them time to review the hundreds of documents in the case, but the request was declined.

When another lawyer made a request, the judge interrupted and refused to recognize it. When the lawyers protested, Youssef shouted that they would not dictate what he should do and ordered court security to step in between him and the lawyers.

A security official in the courtroom said the defendants and the lawyers disrupted the proceedings by chanting against the judge: "God is our only refuge!" He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

"We didn't have the chance to say a word, to look at more than 3,000 pages of investigation and to see what evidence they are talking about," el-Koumi, who was representing 10 of the defendants, told The Associated Press.

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

"Now the coup is hanging itself by these void measures," he said, speaking to the Qatari-based Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr TV station.

He said he believed the verdicts were timed to send a message to an Arab League summit that begins Tuesday in Kuwait, where Egypt is pressing other Arab governments to ban the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group.

On Tuesday, another mass trial against Morsi's supporters opens in a Minya court with 683 suspects facing similar charges. The defendants in that case include Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie, who also faces multiple other trials, and senior members of the group from Minya province.

Egypt's military toppled Morsi in July after four days of massive demonstrations by his opponents demanding he step down for abusing power during his year in office. Since then, Morsi's Brotherhood and other Islamist supporters have staged near-daily demonstrations that usually descend into violent street confrontations with security forces.

The military-backed government has arrested some 16,000 people in the ensuing crackdown, including most of the Brotherhood leadership.

At the same time, militant bombings, suicide attacks and other assaults - mostly by an al-Qaida-inspired group - have increased, targeting police and military forces in retaliation for the crackdown. The authorities have blamed the Brotherhood for the violence, branding it a terrorist organization and confiscating its assets. The group has denied any links to the attacks and has denounced the violence.

Imad El-Anis, an expert in Middle Eastern politics at Nottingham Trent University, said Monday's verdicts were "far from meeting minimum international standards for judicial processes of this kind."

But he said Egyptian authorities are unlikely to heed any international criticism of the verdicts "and are likely to push on with further rapid mass trials."

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

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Kevin Caldwell March 24 2014 at 9:00 AM

And the world just keeps burning, I wonder what has changed over the last 5 years.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
2 replies
peckart Kevin Caldwell March 24 2014 at 9:39 AM

OK....... I guess in your world Obama is at fault here too....kind of a stretch...don't ya think?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
pnmcquis Kevin Caldwell March 24 2014 at 10:02 AM

the world has been burning since the beginning of time if u read history. i dont think one man has much to do with it, only in small minds.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
candoauto1 March 24 2014 at 10:01 AM

My brother lives in Cairo Egypt. He moved there about a year ago for his job in IT. He is a US citizen, and he was among those just sentenced to death. Our family is ever so deeply saddened. We are trying everything to get his death sentence overturned. The government there said he will be put to death however for his support of Morsi. When my brother was asked by the court what he thought of Morsi, he told them he loved him his whole life. Now he will be put to death. The issue however is my brothers car has a bumper sticker from the 80s on his car that says "I rock with Morrissey!" I guess it seems my brother is a big fan of the Alternative Rock Singer Morrissey of the Smiths. Everything the government authorities interviewed him he thought they were saying Morrissey, when in fact they were say Morsi. Now due to his bumper sticker and his interviews, he will sadly be put to death as part of this.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
3 replies
alfredschrader March 24 2014 at 9:57 AM

This is why we owe so much to our founding fathers.
You can't tax 529 citizens if they are dead. I'm certain of it.
There's not even a check box on the 1040A tax form for being dead, only if you are blind or 65 or older, but no check boxes for being dead. Even your Social Secirity number becomes void if you're dead.
The Egyptian government more than 5,000 years out of date.
We are very fortunate to have an updated government with a solid Constitution, it's our true treasure and we need to protect it. Right now there are forces trying to subvert the Constitution with spying and God knows what. We really need to have respect for the wisdom of our founding fathers and ensure our freedoms.

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4 replies
moonglow225 March 24 2014 at 10:12 AM

While this is happening on the other side of the planet, I can't believe that a nation founded after a revolution and protecting the right to disagree without the fear of retribution could be so callous about such a judicial atrocity. This should not be viewed as justice--regardless of one's political views.

I sometimes fear that the citizens in the U.S. believe that this could never happen here. We all should realize that our liberties and freedoms survive on a very thin thread which could easily be broken if a rigid fanatic should ever be elected. That's what I find frightening now about the polarity of our Congress--which if one believes the rhetoric of the Senators and Representatives, they each represent the wishes of their constituents. A nation's inability to work together and/or compromise could land us in a highly restrictive environment. None of us want that. No one should wish for the return of a political atmosphere which returns to the fanaticism of the McCarthy Era and that type of witch hunt.

Flag Reply +10 rate up
2 replies
fxlr3 moonglow225 March 24 2014 at 10:18 AM

Sad to say ,But judging by the political climate in this country ,I see it more likely than not that there will be a uprising here,

Flag Reply +7 rate up
debnaert moonglow225 March 24 2014 at 10:25 AM

GEEEEEEEEEEEEE..... where have you been for the last 5 years? I saw this a LONG time ago! When the democrats DECIDED to REMOVE GOD FROM THEIR PLATFORM! That did it for ME! This administration is WICKED beyond belief! THEY would do anything for votes and POWER! Reid, Pelosi, Obama...... WICKED!

Flag Reply +9 rate up
3 replies
rx901tn March 24 2014 at 9:54 AM

my the 16,000 RIP. wonder how long it takes to dig 16,000 holes their fight for 100 virgins is about over.
that's doing it right no if and or but. NO SOUP FOR YOU______NEXT.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
1 reply
shadowdew55 rx901tn March 24 2014 at 9:59 AM

BUT I ORDERED A HAMBURGER.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
scottee March 24 2014 at 11:00 AM

hmmmmm....the numbers are very similar.
545 human beings (One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president and nine Supreme Court justices) out of the 316 million - are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague our country.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
snhhert March 24 2014 at 9:50 AM

Pay per view!
YES!

Flag Reply +4 rate up
shawnstecks March 24 2014 at 9:12 AM

you reap what you sow

Flag Reply +1 rate up
bps163 March 24 2014 at 9:04 AM

The headlines was all that needed to be said 529 to be killed ! Okay just how much heroin are these judges or people on. This is total madness. Killing must be their favorite past time what bunch of nut cases.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
peckart bps163 March 24 2014 at 9:37 AM

The article goes on to say that the death sentences are likely to be overturned. This was a political statement against the Morsey supporters and the Muslim brotherhood. Not sure that I have a problem with that as long as the sentences are not carried out

Flag Reply +2 rate up
elpusmcfd March 24 2014 at 9:41 AM

An eye for an eye.. A nation of blind people.

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