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Egypt sentences ex-President Morsi to life on espionage charges

Egypt's deposed President Mohammed Morsi has been sentenced to 40 years in prison on charges of leaking secret state documents to Qatar. Two al-Jazeera journalists were sentenced to death in absentia at the same trial.

Former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was handed two further sentences in addition to earlier sentences against him. In a

capital espionage case

, the deposed Islamist leader was given life imprisonment (25 years) and an additional 15 years, making it unlikely that he will leave prison in his lifetime.

Two al-Jazeera journalists - identified by the trial judge as news producer Alaa Omar Mohammed, a Jordanian citizen, and news editor Ibrahim Mohammed Hilal - were also sentenced to death in absentia, accused of leaking Egypt's secret state documents to Qatar. Morsi was charged with the same crime.

The court also

upheld preliminary death sentences

handed down in May 2015 to six defendants in the same case. The sentences can still be appealed. The death sentences will be sent to the mufti - Egypt's official interpreter of Islamic law - as Egyptian law requires his non-binding opinion on death sentences.

Politicized trial

Many people are hoping that governments will not respond to calls for the extradition of the two al-Jazeera journalists and have already called the proceedings a "sham trial."

Hilal told al-Jazeera he believed that the verdict was intended to send a warning to journalists.

"It's an injustice. But it's a positive thing for me to carry out my work as a journalist in future even better," he said. Hilal also told Al Jazeera the charges were part of a wider government campaign against press freedoms.

Al Jazeera meanwhile said that the ruling was "unprecedented in the history of journalism in the world; it represents a stab in the back of the profession and freedom of expression worldwide."

Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood

Qatar was considered to be a key ally of Morsi's banned Muslim Brotherhood movement while he was in power between 2012 and July 2013. Morsi, who was Egypt's first freely elected president after three decades of dictatorship under Hosni Mubarak, was toppled by the military in 2013 following mass protests against his rule.

He has been sentenced to death in a separate trial for his alleged role in prison breaks and attacks on police stations during the 2011 uprising against Mubarak. Morsi has also received a life sentence and a 20-year jail term in two other trials.

Watch video 01:47

Egyptian army ousts Morsi

ss/jm (AP, AFP, dpa)

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