A file picture dated 15 February 2015 of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi gesturing from inside a cage in the courtroom where he stood trial in Cairo. Picture: Namir Galal / Almasry Alyoum
A file picture dated 15 February 2015 of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi gesturing from inside a cage in the courtroom where he stood trial in Cairo. Picture: Namir Galal / Almasry Alyoum

Morsi sentenced to death

By Ruth Michaelson Time of article published May 17, 2015

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Cairo - An Egyptian court sentenced the ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, and more than 100 others to death on Saturday over a mass prison breakout during the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak and later brought Morsi's Islamist movement to power.

The cluster of defendants, held inside a frosted glass and metal cage, shouted on hearing the news that the former president, along with 105 others, was convicted of breaking out of Wadi il-Natroun prison.

The prosecution alleged that foreign fighters from Gaza had entered Egypt, and co-ordinated a mass jailbreak from three prisons using heavy weapons.

They argued that the fleeing prisoners looted and destroyed property as well as committing murder.

The defendants inside the courthouse of Cairo's Military Academy were dressed in the red, blue and white jumpsuits that denote whether prisoners are on death row, sentenced to jail or awaiting sentencing.

Chants of “down with the military regime”, intermittently pierced the thick walls of the cage, with Morsi himself obscured from view in a separate chamber.

Along with Muslim Brotherhood leaders Mohammed el-Beltagy, Khairat el-Shater and 33 others, Morsi was also convicted of “conspiring with foreign powers”, namely the Palestinian Hamas faction, to destabilise Egypt.

Fourteen of those convicted, plus Morsi, received the death penalty.

Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected leader, was ousted by the military in July 2013 following days of mass street protests over his tenure.

His successor, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, went from military chief to ruler, his position confirmed by an election last year.

The court set 2 June as the date where, as is customary, Egypt's top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, will confirm or commute the death sentences.

A confirmation is not legally binding, and Morsi and others can still appeal against their sentences.

Mohamed el-Damati, one of several lawyers representing Morsi, branded the verdict “totally unfair”, in conversation with The Independent on Sunday.

“There is no evidence to prove his guilt - when the prison was open, he left like everyone else,” he said.

“Nothing here is documented. [The former interior minister], Mohamed Ibrahim, said there were no charges against Morsi while he was in power. If the Grand Mufti approves the death penalty on 2 June, we will go to the Court of Appeal.”

Amnesty International called the court decision “a charade based on null and void procedures” and demanded Morsi's release or retrial in a civilian court, while Muslim Brotherhood officials called for the international community to take action.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey criticised Morsi's death sentence, saying the government was returning to the “old Egypt” by rolling back democracy.

He also criticised the West, saying it had failed to speak out against Mr Sisi or the death sentences being handed down to Brotherhood leaders.

The former president had already been sentenced last month to 20 years in prison in a separate case, on charges linked to the killing of protesters outside a Cairo presidential palace in December 2012.

He is also awaiting sentencing in a case alleging he passed state secrets to foreign groups during his year in office.

On the streets of the village of Nahia, the day before the verdict, feelings were running high. Nahia, a desperately poor agricultural village in Giza of 50 000 people, has long been a stronghold of support for the Muslim Brotherhood, even in the face of a crackdown on the group which renders any support illegal.

Around 200 villagers marched through the unpaved streets, handing out leaflets which read: “In the time of Morsi, we always had enough wheat. In the time of Sisi, we have had enough killing.”

“Mohamed Morsi is a red line,” said one protester. Asked about what kind of reaction to expect to a death sentence for Morsi, he warned that “things might get out of control”, but said that nothing specific had been organised.

Another man pointed to how the government crackdown on local Brotherhood members has plagued the village.

“They have ruined our lives,” he added.

The Independent on Sunday

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