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Ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy sentenced to 20 years

April 21, 2015 2:19 PM
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Ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy sentenced to 20 years

An Egyptian criminal court today sentenced ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi to 20 years in prison on charges linked to the killing of protesters in 2012, the first verdict to be issued against the country's first freely elected leader.

The conviction, which can be appealed, and muted Islamist reaction following it underscore the dramatic downfall of Morsi and Egypt's once-powerful Muslim Brotherhood group.

However, Morsi escaped receiving a death sentence in the case, which Islamists derided as a "farce."

Morsi and the Brotherhood swiftly rose to power in elections after autocrat Hosni Mubarak's 2011 ouster, only to find themselves imprisoned a year later when millions protested against them for abusing power and the military overthrew the government.

But as Mubarak and members of his government increasingly find themselves acquitted of criminal charges, Morsi and the Brotherhood are at the receiving end of heavy-handed sentences.

Today's verdict sparked no immediate street protests, reflecting the toll of a heavy security crackdown on any show of dissent – either by Islamists or secular-leaning activists.

During the hearing, Judge Ahmed Youssef issued his verdict as Morsi and other defendants in the case – mostly Brotherhood leaders – stood in a soundproof glass cage inside a makeshift courtroom at Egypt's national police academy.

In addition to Morsi, 12 Brotherhood leaders and Islamist supporters, including Mohammed el-Beltagy and Essam el-Erian, also were sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Youssef dropped murder charges involved in the case and said the sentences were linked to the "show of force" and unlawful detention associated with the case.

The case stems from violence outside the presidential palace in December 2012.

Morsi's supporters attacked opposition protesters demanding that Morsi call off a referendum on an Islamist-drafted constitution.

Clashes developed into deadly confrontations overnight that killed at least 10 people.

In a statement, Amnesty International called the case flawed and full of loopholes, while describing the trial as "sham."

"Convicting Mohammed Morsi, despite fundamental flaws in the legal process and what seems to be at best flimsy evidence produced in court under a gag order, utterly undermines this verdict," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty's deputy Middle East and North Africa director.

Morsi's questioning took place without his lawyers present during his detention in an undisclosed location for four months following his ouster in July 2013.

Amnesty said Morsi's legal team was only able to access case files days before the trial began.

It also documented irregularities, such as where abuses of his supporters — not his opponents — were the only evidence documented.

The court also ignored what Amnesty said were deaths among Morsi's supporters during the same protests.

During today's hearing, Morsi and the rest of the defendants in white jumpsuits raised the four-finger sign symbolising the sit-in at the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, where hundreds were killed when security forces violently dispersed the sprawling sit-in by Morsi's supporters on August 14, 2013.

It was a far cry from when the trial first began, when Morsi repeatedly shouted to the court: "I am the president of the republic!"

During subsequent court appearances, Morsi and other defendants turned their backs to the court when Youssef played several videos of the clashes outside the palace in 2012.

From his exile in Turkey's capital, Istanbul, top Muslim Brotherhood figure Amr Darrag called the ruling "a sad and terrible day in Egyptian history."

"They want to pass a life sentence for democracy in Egypt," Darrag said.


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