CAIRO – A court in Egypt convicted 529 supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and sentenced them to death on charges of murdering a policeman and attacking police in one of the largest mass trials in the country in decades.
The majority of the defendants were tried in absentia while more than 150 stood trial in unprecedentedly rushed hearings that lasted only two days. Sixteen suspects were acquitted.
The verdicts — and the extremely harsh sentences — are likely to be overturned on appeal, rights lawyers said after the trial.
“This is way over the top and unacceptable,” said attorney Mohammed Zarie, who heads a rights center in Cairo. “It turns the judiciary in Egypt from a tool for achieving justice to an instrument for taking revenge.”
The mass nature of the trial testifies to the determination of Egypt’s military-backed government to break the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails.