An Egyptian court sentenced ousted President Mohammed Morsi and more than 100 others to death Saturday over a mass prison break during the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak and later brought Islamists to power for the first time in Egypt.
As is customary in passing capital punishment, Judge Shaaban el-Shami referred his death sentence on Morsi and others to the nation’s top Muslim theologian, or mufti, for his nonbinding opinion. El-Shami set June 2 for the next hearing.
Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected leader, was ousted by the military in July 2013 following days of mass street protests by Egyptians demanding that he be removed because of his divisive policies. Morsi’s successor, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, was the military chief at the time and led the ouster. El-Sissi ran for president last year and won the vote in a landslide.
Also sentenced to death with Morsi in the prison break case were 105 defendants, most of them were tried and convicted in absentia. They include some 70 Palestinians. Those tried in absentia in Egypt receive automatic retrials once detained.
Supporters of Morsi and his now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood chanted “down, down with military rule” as el-Shami announced the verdict in the courtroom, a converted lecture hall in the national police academy in an eastern Cairo suburb.
Prosecutors have alleged in the case that armed members of the Palestinian Hamas group entered Egypt during the 18-day uprising through illegal tunnels running under Gaza’s border with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Taking advantage of the uprising’s turmoil, the militants fought their way into several prisons, releasing Morsi, more than 30 other Brotherhood leaders, and some 20,000 inmates, prosecutors say. Several prison guards were killed and parts of the stormed prisons were damaged.
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