More than 700 Egyptians jailed over 2013 pro-Morsi protests


An Egyptian court sentenced 75 people to death on Saturday for their involvement in a 2013 sit-in protest by Islamists that was violently put down by security forces and led to almost 1,000 dead.

The mass trial relates to a Muslim Brotherhood protest in Cairo's Rabaa Square that was broken up by the security forces.

Photographer Mahmoud Abu Zeid was among 739 defendants on trial, a lot of them charged with killing police and vandalising property.

Those receiving the death penalty included senior Brotherhood leaders Essam al-Erian and Mohamed Beltagi, as well as preacher Safwat Higazi.

The court in Cairo also sentenced to life in prison the head of the Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, and 46 others. Five-year terms were handed to 215 people.

Rights group Amnesty International has called the trial "grossly unfair" and a violation of Egypt's constitution.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranks Egypt 161st out of 180 countries on its press freedom index and says that at least 31 journalists are now detained in the Arab world's most populous nation.

The government said many protesters were armed, and that eight police were killed - although it initially said more than 40 members of the security services had died.

The 75 death sentences were handed down in July and Saturday's confirmation of them and the additional verdicts mark the end of the mass trial.

Several mass trials of Islamists that yielded dozens of death sentences have been held in Egypt since 2013, when the military, then led by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, removed an Islamist president who hails from the Brotherhood, which has since been outlawed and designated a terror group. Proceedings were dropped against five defendants who have died since the trial began.

An award-winning photographer who covered the protests, Mahmoud Abu Zeid, was sentenced to 5 years in jail, but would soon be released because his 5 years in detention during the trial are counted towards the sentence, judicial sources said. The rights group pointed out that "not a single police officer has been brought to account".

Hundreds more were killed in street clashes with police in the months that followed.

The court confirmed 75 people's death sentences and life imprisonment for 47 others, including Islamic leaders.



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