CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s highest criminal court Monday upheld the death sentence for 12 people involved in a 2013 protest by Islamists, including leaders of the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, state media reported.
The 12 were convicted and sentenced in a mass trial in 2018 for involvement in a sit-in protest that was violently dispersed by security forces in an operation that left hundreds dead. The case resulted in 739 people being convicted on an array of charges ranging from murder to damaging property.
The Court of Cassation also overturned death sentences for 31 others in the same case, giving them life imprisonment instead, the MENA news agency reported.
The court upheld life sentences for the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, and 46 others. Also upheld Monday were 15-year jail terms for 374 defendants and 10-year imprisonments for 23 others.
All of the sentences, which the court considered on appeal, are final.
The sit-in at a square in a Cairo suburb was staged by supporters of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who was a member of the Brotherhood. He became Egypt’s first freely elected president in 2012 but was ousted in July 2013 by the military following days of street protests calling on him to step down.
It is widely believed that breaking up that sit-in and another one in Cairo also staged by Islamists left an estimated 900 people dead. Following the dispersals, Islamists attacked and torched police stations and churches across the country.
The 2018 court ruling included death sentences for 75 defendants, including 44 who were jailed and 31 at large, in a mass trial that drew scathing criticism from rights groups at home and abroad.
Defendants who were tried and sentenced in absentia by the Cairo Criminal Court will be retried once arrested.
Several mass trials of Islamists that yielded dozens of death sentences have been held in Egypt in recent years. Some of the death sentences have been overturned on appeal.
Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said Monday’s verdict came after a significant spike in executions in Egypt in 2020, making it the world’s third most frequent executioner with 107 executions.
“These ruthless death sentences, which were handed down in 2018 after a grossly unfair mass trial, are a stain on the reputation of Egypt’s highest appeals court and cast a dark shadow over the country’s entire justice system,” he said.
At least 51 men and women have been executed this year so far, he said.