Muslim chief and 682 given death penalty for Egypt riot
Published 29/04/2014 | 02:30
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood leader was sentenced to death yesterday with 682 other people in a second mass trial, renewing widespread international concern over the country's rule of law and "road-map to democracy".
Mohammed Badie was found guilty of inciting riots in the town of Edwa last summer, amid the unrest, protests and killings that followed the army's overthrow of the Brotherhood's president, Mohammed Morsi.
In the aftermath, tens of thousands of people were arrested, including Islamists, but also many others.
At the same hearing, the judge, Said Yussef, commuted to life imprisonment all but 37 of the 529 death penalties he gave in a separate case last month, over a similar riot in the nearby town of Mattay in which a police officer was killed.
Relations of many of those on trial claimed that they were not present when mobs ran through a number of towns attacking churches, businesses and government offices, and said they were being victimised for petty local feuds.
"We had a fight with a neighbour who is an undercover policeman," said one woman. "After that he said he was going to 'clean the street of rubbish', and put my two boys' names on the list."
The husband of Ahmed Eid, a lawyer, was representing a large number of the defendants when he was suddenly arrested. His wife, Maha, said she was convinced police were angry that he had managed to have more than 100 people released without charge.
When news of the sentences came through, relatives outside the court in the provincial capital Minya broke into howls of anguish and fell to their knees.
The roads were blocked off by armoured personnel carriers. Neither the accused nor families were in court, and nobody came out to say whose death penalties had been confirmed.
"I don't know whether my husband's case has been commuted or not," said Mona Shahada, whose husband, Mohammed Ali Ahmed, was convicted last month.
The riots were caused by the authorities' decision to break up protests in Cairo with force.
About 1,000 Brotherhood supporters were gunned down there, while some police officers also died. That day remains a fraught dividing line in Egyptian society. (© Daily Telegraph, London)