683 Sentenced to Death in Mass Trial in Egypt

Egyptian court recommended death sentence for Muslim Brotherhood leader and 682 supporters, and handing down 37 death sentences in a separate case.

Demonstrators protest in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, April 26, 2014.
Demonstrators protest in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, April 26, 2014. AP

An Egyptian court has recommended the death sentence for the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and 682 supporters, and handed down a final capital punishment ruling for 37 others, judicial sources said.

Seeking the death penalty for Mohammed Badie, the Brotherhood's general guide, is certain to raise tension in Egypt, which has been gripped by turmoil since the army removed the Brotherhood from power last year.

The 37 death sentences were part of a final judgement on 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters who were sentenced to death last month. The remaining defendants were sentenced to life in jail.

In both cases the defendants were accused of killing two policemen during violence that swept Egypt last August, The Guardian reported. The 529 were accused with the lynching of an office in Matay in Minya province in the south of the country. The 683 are accused of killing an officer in nearby Adwa that same day, The Guardian said.

The August events took place as a wave of violence swept southern Egypt in the wake of the killing of hundreds when police dismantled sit-ins held by supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, who was toppled by the military last July.

Many of those on trial say they weren't there at the time of these incidents, and that they are not even Muslim Brotherhood supporters, The Guardian said.

Death sentence recommendations in the case involving Badie will be passed on to Egypt's Mufti, the highest religious authority. His opinion is not legally binding and can be ignored by the court.

The biggest trials in Egypt's modern history have reinforced fears among human rights groups that the military-backed government and anti-Islamist judges are bent on crushing dissent.

The authorities have branded the Brotherhood a terrorist group, an allegation it denies.

The sentences provoked widespread international condemnation. Amnesty International described them as "a grotesque example of the shortcomings and the selective nature of Egypt's justice system."