Judges shot as militants protest Morsi death sentence
An Egyptian court sentenced ousted President Mohammed Morsi and over 100 others to death Saturday over a mass prison break during the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak and later brought Morsi's Islamist movement to power.
In what appears to be the first violent response to the sentence, suspected Islamic militants in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula gunned down three judges and wounded three others traveling in a car in the northern Sinai city of al-Arish.
As is customary in capital punishment cases, Judge Shaaban el-Shami referred his death sentence on Morsi and the others to the nation's top Muslim theologian, or mufti, for his non-binding opinion. El-Shami set June 2 for the next hearing. Regardless of the mufti's ruling, the sentences can be appealed.
Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected leader, was ousted by the military in July 2013 following days of mass street protests by Egyptians demanding that he be removed because of his divisive policies.
His successor, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, was the military chief at the time and led the ouster. El-Sissi ran for president last year and won the vote in a landslide. Also sentenced to death with Morsi in the prison-break case were 105 defendants, most of them tried and convicted in absentia. They include some 70 Palestinians. Those tried in absentia in Egypt receive automatic retrials once detained.
Supporters of Morsi and his now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood chanted "down, down with military rule" as el-Shami announced the verdict in the courtroom, a converted lecture hall in the national police academy in an eastern Cairo suburb.
Prosecutors alleged that armed members of the Palestinian Hamas group entered Egypt during the 18-day uprising through illegal tunnels running under the Gaza border with Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
Taking advantage of the turmoil, the militants fought their way into several prisons, releasing Morsi, more than 30 other Brotherhood leaders and some 20,000 inmates, prosecutors say. Several prison guards were killed and parts of the stormed prisons were damaged.
Those sentenced to death with Morsi on Saturday include the Brotherhood's spiritual leader, Mohammed Badie, as well as one of the Arab world's best-known Islamic scholars, Qatar-based Youssef al-Qaradawi.
Hezbollah and Hamas operatives, who had been convicted and sentenced to jail terms over terror-related charges, were also broken out of jail in 2011. Hundreds of protesters were killed during the uprising and dozens of police stations across the country were stormed by demonstrators. Media commentators maintain that the jailbreaks and the attacks on police stations were part of a Brotherhood plot to spread fear and chaos to ensure the fall of Mubarak.
The Brotherhood won every election in Egypt between 2011 and Morsi's ouster in July 2013. Its popularity began to slide after Morsi took office in June 2012 and decreed himself above any sort of oversight later that year.