MINYA, Egypt — An Egyptian court here on Monday sentenced to death the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and more than 680 other people after a swift mass trial on charges of inciting or committing acts of violence that led to the destruction of a police station and the killing of an officer.
The verdict, after a trial lasting only a few minutes, came just a month after the same judge drew condemnation from around the world for sentencing 529 other people to death in a similarly lightning-fast mass trial. The judge, Sayedd Yousef, affirmed the death sentences Monday of about 40 of the defendants in that mass trial and commuted the others to life in prison, which is understood here to mean 25 years.
The verdicts Monday and last month are subject to appeal. Both sets of trials involved sentences in absentia for many defendants who are still at large, and if they are arrested all will receive a retrial. But there has been little, if any, public criticism of the decisions from within the Egyptian judiciary, once regarded as a bastion of relative liberalism within Egypt’s authoritarian system.
The speed and scale of the latest batch of sentences, in defiance of international outrage at the earlier one, appeared to underscore the judiciary’s energetic support for the new military-led government’s sweeping crackdown on its political opponents, including Islamist supporters of the ousted President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as more liberal groups.
In a separate ruling on Monday, a Cairo court banned the activities of the April 6 group, a liberal organization that spearheaded the revolt against President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The group continued its work opposing police brutality and pushing for democratic reforms under Mr. Morsi, and it has continued to defend the right to dissent since his military ouster last summer.
On Monday, a Cairo court ruled that the group had been collaborating with foreign powers and “committing acts that distort the image of the Egyptian state,” according to the official state newspaper.
The group’s leader, Ahmed Maher, and a co-founder, Mohamed Adel, are both already serving three-year sentences on charges of organizing an unauthorized street protest against the new military-backed government.
The rulings in the city of Minya, on the other hand, involved Mr. Morsi’s Islamist supporters. Both sets of cases related to a violent backlash against the police in August after the security forces used deadly force to break up sit-ins held by Mr. Morsi’s supporters to protest his ouster, killing as many as 1,000 people, according to the best estimates by independent rights groups.
Minya, an Islamist stronghold that was at the center of a militant insurgency 20 years ago, was a major flash point of the violence, with Islamists attacking several churches and police stations.
In each of the batches of sentences issued Monday and last month, however, only one police officer was alleged to have been killed, and none of those sentenced to death on Monday was charged with participating in his murder. Many of those punished, including Mohamed Badie, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, were sentenced to death for lesser crimes, including committing or inciting acts of violence.
Mr. Badie was in Cairo at the time of the attacks, and he repeatedly emphasized nonviolence in his public remarks in the period leading up the crackdown and the backlash against it.
His death sentence marks another dramatic escalation in the repression of the Muslim Brotherhood. Mr. Badie, 70, who trained as a veterinarian and is known as the group’s supreme guide, is revered by hundreds of thousands of Islamists around Egypt as a religious authority and teacher.
If carried out, his death sentence would mark the first execution by Egypt of a supreme guide in more than six decades of often bloody attempts to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood. A supreme guide was sentenced to death during the crackdown on the Brotherhood when President Gamal Abdel Nasser took power in 1954, but the verdict was commuted to life in prison and the supreme guide, Hassan el-Houdaiby, was ultimately released.
Although the Brotherhood was not formally legalized until after the 2011 revolt here, the group integrated itself into Egyptian civil society during Mr. Mubarak’s three decades in power. The Brotherhood ran schools, hospitals and charities, and fielded candidates who formed an opposition bloc in the Parliament dominated by Mr. Mubarak’s party.
As supreme guide, Mr. Badie was a household name whose statements and activities were front-page news in Egypt, and the police refrained from jailing him even during periodic roundups of other Brotherhood leaders.
Source:- NY Times