CAIRO–An Egyptian criminal court on Tuesday sentenced ousted president Mohamed Morsi to 20 years in prison over the killing of protesters in 2012, the first verdict to be issued against the country’s first democratically elected leader.
The verdict involves a case in which Morsi and 14 other defendants, seven of whom are on the run, are charged with the killing of three protesters and torturing several more during clashes in front of the presidential palace on Dec 5, 2012.
The protesters were demonstrating against a Morsi decree that put him above judicial review when they clashed with his supporters.
Defence lawyers say there is no proof Morsi incited the clashes, and that most of those killed were Brotherhood members.
The Cairo Criminal Court issued the verdict as Morsi and other defendants in the case – mostly Muslim Brotherhood leaders – stood in a soundproof glass cage inside a makeshift courtroom at Egypt’s national police academy.
The case stems from violence outside the presidential palace in Dec 2012. Morsi’s supporters attacked opposition protesters, sparking clashes that killed at least 10 people.
Judge Ahmed Youssef dropped murder charges and said the sentence was linked to the “show of force” and unlawful detention associated with the case.
In addition to Morsi, 12 Brotherhood leaders and supporters, including Mohammed el-Beltagy and Essam el-Erian, also were sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Morsi and the rest of the defendants 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 Aug 14, 2013.
Morsi faces several other trials along with thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members following the military overthrowing him in 2013.
Morsi was ousted following demonstrations by millions of people calling on him to leave office.
His regime was toppled by the then army chief — and now president — Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on July 3, 2013 after mass street protests against his year-long rule.
The new authorities then launched a sweeping crackdown on his supporters in which more than 1,400 people were killed and thousands jailed.
Hundreds have been sentenced to death after speedy mass trials which the United Nations called “unprecedented in recent history”.
The authorities have also targeted secular and liberal activists who spearheaded the 2011 uprising against long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak, Morsi’s predecessor.
He is now held at a high security prison near the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. His incarceration there followed four months of detention at an undisclosed location.
In past sessions, Morsi and most of the defendants turned their backs to the court when Youssef played several video recordings of the clashes outside the palace in 2012.
Morsi faces the death penalty in two trials, including one in which he is accused of spying for foreign powers, and escaping from prison during the 2011 anti-Mubarak revolt. Separate verdicts in these two cases are due on May 16.
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