An Egyptian court has sentenced to death 529 supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. The defendants had been found guilty of murdering a police officer.
Of those defendants sentenced to death on Monday, fewer than half were actually present for the trial. The rest are on the run from Egypt's military-backed government, which has launched a brutal crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood since Morsi's overthrow in a coup last July.
The group of 529 was convicted of slaying Mostafa El-Attar, the deputy commander of the Matay district police station in Minya province, according to Egypt’s state-owned al-Ahram newspaper. According to lawyer Ahmed al-Sharif, 16 of the accused were acquitted on Monday.
"Even if they are tried in absentia, you do not sentence 529 defendants to death in three days," Gamal Eid, a lawyer with the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, told al-Ahram. The sentences can be appealed.
The murder charge stems from violent clashes last August between Morsi supporters and government security forces in the town of Matay, located in the central province of Minya, about 200 kilometers south of Cairo.
According to the state-run MENA news agency, the defendants were also accused of attempting to murder two other police officers, attacking public property, burning down the Matay police station, seizing weapons and disrupting public order.
The violence in Matay came after the violent dispersal of a pro-Morsi protest camp in Cairo on August 14. The clearing of the camp by security forces had left hundreds dead.
In total, approximately 1,200 people are on trial for charges related to the August clashes in Matay. The trial began on Saturday , with the defendants split into two groups. The second group of around 700 accused will be in the dock on Tuesday.
slk/se (AFP, dpa, Reuters)