Egypt sentences 529 Morsi supporters to death

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Egypt sentences 529 Morsi supporters to death
CAIRO, EGYPT - JUNE 02: Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi gestures as he stands inside the defendants' cage in a courtroom during his trial in Cairo, Egypt, on June 02, 2015. An Egyptian court postponed Tuesday the verdict in former President Mohamed Morsi's jailbreak and espionage cases to June 16. Last month, the court had asked for the opinion of Egypts highest religious authority on death sentences it issued against Morsi and 105 co-defendants who were accused of taking part in a mass jailbreak during Egypt's 2011 uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak. (Photo by Mohamed Mahmoud/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Egypt's ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi gestures in a defendants cage at the Police Academy courthouse in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, June 16, 2015. An Egyptian court on Tuesday confirmed a death sentence handed to Morsi over a mass prison break during the 2011 uprising that eventually brought him to power. On Tuesday a separate ruling upheld a life sentence for Morsi and confirmed death sentences against 16 others over charges of conspiring with foreign groups, including the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Egypt's ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi gestures in a defendants cage at the Police Academy courthouse in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, June 16, 2015. An Egyptian court on Tuesday confirmed a death sentence handed to Morsi over a mass prison break during the 2011 uprising that eventually brought him to power. On Tuesday a separate ruling upheld a life sentence for Morsi and confirmed death sentences against 16 others over charges of conspiring with foreign groups, including the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
FILE - In this May 8, 2014 file photo, Egypt's ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi sits in a defendant cage in the Police Academy courthouse in Cairo, Egypt. On Tuesday April 21, 2015, an Egyptian criminal court sentenced Morsi to 20 years in prison over the killing of protesters in 2012, the first verdict to be issued against the leader. The case stems from violence outside the presidential palace in December 2012. (AP Photo/Tarek el-Gabbas, File)
FILE -- In this Friday, April 20, 2012 file photo fireworks streak across the sky as Egyptian protesters fill Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt. Egyptians are closely following protests in Turkey, a country that has provided the heavily polarized and increasingly impoverished Egyptians with a tantalizing model for marrying Islamist government with a secular establishment and achieving prosperity along the way. For the first time in a decade of power, Erdogan appeared vulnerable and embattled in front of tens of thousands of protesters converging every day at dozens of cities across Turkey for more than a week. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)
FILE - In this Friday, June 29, 2012 file photo, Egypt's President-elect Mohammed Morsi talks to his supporters at Tahrir Square, the focal point of Egyptian uprising, during his speech in Cairo, Egypt. On Tuesday April 21, 2015, an Egyptian criminal court sentenced Morsi to 20 years in prison over the killing of protesters in December 2012, the first verdict to be issued against the leader. Morsi faces several other trials along with thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members following the military overthrowing him in 2013.. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)
A Palestinian boy shouts slogans during a rally near the Rafah border between southern Gaza Strip and Egypt on February 5, 2015 to condemn the decision of an Egyptian court to ban the armed wing of Palestinian Islamist movement. Since Egypt's military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, the authorities have accused Hamas of aiding jihadists who have waged a string of deadly attacks on security forces in the Sinai Peninsula. AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB (Photo credit should read SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images)
Egyptian protesters take part in a protest in Tahrir Square to call for the fall of Islamist President on January 24, 2012 in Cairo. Police clashed with protesters in Cairo earlier, on the eve of the the second anniversary of the uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, as they tried to dismantle a security barrier and called for the fall of President Mohamed Morsi. AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED ABED (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)
An Egyptian protester wears a mask of the anonymous movement during a protest in Tahrir Square to call for the fall of Islamist President on January 24, 2012 in Cairo. Police clashed with protesters in Cairo earlier, on the eve of the the second anniversary of the uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, as they tried to dismantle a security barrier and called for the fall of President Mohamed Morsi. AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED ABED (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 27, 2013 file photo, A young Egyptian boy participates in a demonstration by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi in the Maadi district of Cairo, Egypt. A court in southern Egyptian has convicted 529 supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, sentencing them to death on charges of murdering a policeman and attacking police. (AP Photo/Hamada Elrasam, File)
A Volkswagen van burns after being set on fire by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi during clashes with security forces in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Hundreds of Morsi supporters took to the streets on Friday, the traditional Muslim day of prayer, to denounce the military-backed government and call on the release of their fellows detained during other demonstrations. They've been regularly protesting Friday since Morsi's overthrow. (AP Photo/Emad Abul Rahman)
Egyptian security forces take cover with their weapons during clashes with supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Hundreds of Morsi supporters took to the streets on Friday, the traditional Muslim day of prayer, to denounce the military-backed government and call on the release of their fellows detained during other demonstrations. They've been regularly protesting Friday since Morsi's overthrow. (AP Photo/Emad Abul Rahman)
An Egyptian girl flashes the victory sign during a pro-military rally in Tahrir Square, in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014. Egyptian riot police have fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi protesting as the country marks the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising, as supporters of the military gathered in rival rallies in other parts of the capital, many of them urging military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the man who removed Morsi, to run for president. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Egyptian women chant slogans and wave national flags during a rally in Tahrir Square, in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014. Egyptian riot police have fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi protesting as the country marks the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising, as supporters of the military gathered in rival rallies in other parts of the capital, many of them urging military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the man who removed Morsi, to run for president. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Egyptian women chant pro-military slogans and hold a picture of Egypt's Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014. Egyptian riot police have fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi protesting as the country marks the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising, as supporters of the military gathered in rival rallies in other parts of the capital, many of them urging military chief el-Sissi, the man who removed Morsi, to run for president. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Hundreds of Egyptian anti-military protesters, mostly supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, gathered on the third anniversary of the country's 2011 uprising before security forces dispersed them with teargas and birdshot, in the Cairo district of Mohandessin, Egypt, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014. Security forces also moved to shut down rallies marking the anniversary by secular youth activists who led the 2011 anti-Mubarak uprising and who are critical of both the Islamists and the military. A number of their most prominent figures have been in prison for months amid a campaign to silence even secular voices of dissent. (AP Photo/Sabry Khaled, El Shorouk Newspaper) EGYPT OUT
A supporter of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi sets fire to a makeshift barricade during clashes with security forces in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014. In large, state-backed rallies complete with dancing horses and traditional music, military supporters celebrated the anniversary of Egypt's 2011 uprising Saturday, calling for the army chief to run for president. At the same time, security forces cracked down on rival demonstrations by Islamist supporters of the ousted president ? and by secular activists critical of both camps.(AP Photo/Ahmed Gamil)
An Egyptian man holds a poster and a mask depicting Egyptian Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi with Arabic that reads, "complete your good deed," near Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the 2011 uprising, in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014. Egyptian riot police have fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi protesting as the country marks the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising, as supporters of the military gathered in rival rallies in other parts of the capital, many of them urging military chief el-Sissi, the man who removed Morsi, to run for president.(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
An Egyptian girl holds a poster of Egypt's Defense Minister, Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the 2011 uprising, in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014. Egyptian riot police have fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi protesting as the country marks the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising, as supporters of the military gathered in rival rallies in other parts of the capital, many of them urging military chief el-Sissi, the man who removed Morsi, to run for president.(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
An Egyptian vendor wears a mask of Egypt's Defense Minister, Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the 2011 uprising, in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014. Egyptian riot police have fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi protesting as the country marks the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising, as supporters of the military gathered in rival rallies in other parts of the capital, many of them urging military chief el-Sissi, the man who removed Morsi, to run for president.(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Egyptian security forces move in to position during clashes with supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in the Nasr City neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. Supporters of Egypt's toppled president held sporadic protests against this week's constitutional referendum as authorities say at least one person has been killed in clashes. (AP Photo/Ahmed Abd El Latif, El Shorouk Newspaper) EGYPT OUT
Supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi clash with security forces in the Nasr City neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. Supporters of Egypt's toppled president held sporadic protests against this week's constitutional referendum as authorities say at least one person has been killed in clashes. (AP Photo/Ahmed Abd El Latif, El Shorouk Newspaper) EGYPT OUT
FILE - In this Monday, Sept. 30, 2013 file photo, a supporter of Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi holds a poster bearing photo of him and Arabic that reads, "continue your duties and choose your president, campaign," during a campaign to collect signatures and nominate el-Sissi to run for Egypt's president at Pyramisa hotel in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt's military chief is looking for a strong turnout in next week's nationwide constitutional referendum as a mandate on whether he should run for president, senior officials tell the AP. The popular general who ousted President Mohammed Morsi and ordered a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood could be disappointed as his Islamist foes have promised a boycott and mass demonstrations raising fears of violence that are likely to keep voters at home. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty, File)
Egyptian chief electoral officer Ayman Abbas speaks during a press conference in Cairo on January 8, 2015, announcing the date of parliamentary elections. Egypt is to hold a parliamentary election in stages from March 21 to May 7, organisers said, its first since the July 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMED EL-SHAHED (Photo credit should read MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images)
A Followers of Egyptian Muslim cleric and former candidate for the Egyptian presidency Hazem Abu Ismail prays next to the tents the group has set up at Tahrir square as they plan to stay and protest until the leader is permitted to run in the presidential election again. Cairo, Egypt Saturday, April. 21, 2012. The day after that tens of thousands of protesters packed Cairo's downtown Tahrir Square in the biggest demonstration in months against the ruling military, aimed at stepping up pressure on the generals to hand over power to civilians and bar ex-regime members from running in upcoming presidential elections. (AP Photo/Fredrik Persson)
FILE - In this Friday, April 27, 2012 file photo, a veiled Egyptian woman attends a protest in Tahrir Square in Cairo Egypt. Radical Islamists in Egypt dream of turning the most populous Arab country into a religious state. With their scourge Hosni Mubarak out of the way, the most extreme fringe of Islamists is flexing its muscles, adding a potentially destabilizing layer to Egypt's multiple political troubles ahead of presidential elections. Arabic writing on the woman's headband reads, "no God but God and Mohammed is his messenger." (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)
Egyptian protesters chant slogans and wave national flags as well as a Syrian revolutionary flag during a rally in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, April 20, 2012. Tens of thousands of protesters packed Cairo's downtown Tahrir Square on Friday in the biggest demonstration in months against the ruling military, aimed at stepping up pressure on the generals to hand over power to civilians and bar ex-regime members from running in upcoming presidential elections. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
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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."

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