The Minya Criminal Court sentenced 683 supporters and members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death on Monday, including the group’s Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, for violence that occurred at the Edwa Police Station in Minya, Al-Ahram reported.
The defendants are accused of inciting attacks and storming the Edwa Police Station and the murder of a police officer, according to MENA.
The court also upheld 37 of 529 death sentences it had handed down to defendants late last month, sentencing the remaining 492 defendants to life in prison.
However, later on Monday, Prosecutor General Hesham Barakat issued an appeal against the decision to uphold the death sentences.
Head of the court Judge Saeed Youssef had sentenced 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death for violence following the dispersal of the Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda sit-ins last August.
The defendants were handed down the sentences for storming and burning the Matay Police Station in Minya, killing a police officer, attempting to kill two others, stealing weapons and releasing inmates.
The mass death sentence triggered outspoken reactions from human rights organizations and political groups. Egyptian and international organizations decried the verdict, while a United Nations human rights body suggested that the ruling ran against international law.
Defense lawyers for the Edwa case had boycotted the case in protest of the death sentences handed down in the Matay case in response to a call by Tarek Fouda, head of the Lawyers Syndicate in Minya.
Ahmed Shabeeb, a member of the defense team on the Matay case, told Mada Masr that the while the judge must have reconsidered the harsh death penalty sentences, he still did not allow enough time to review its documents.
He said that while he is not on Edwa’s defense team, he has been following it closely. He said that because the defense team had boycotted the trial, there was no room to affect the court’s decision.
“But it is clear that the judge is affected by the Mufti’s decisions, so we will see,” he said.
Mohamed al-Messiry, a researcher with Amnesty International who attended today’s hearing, told Mada Masr that the verdict in both cases disregards any standards for a fair trial.
He explained that the ruling in the 683 defendants’ case came after only one session, where neither all the defendants nor the defense lawyers were present.
“Amnesty International calls on the Egyptian authorities to work towards a retrial that adheres not only to international standards, but is in line with the Egyptian criminal law itself,” he said.
Messiry also commented on the upholding of 37 death sentences, saying there were several violations including the absence of lawyers and defendants in the hearing. He cited one of the defendants who was arrested on January 24, a day before the case was referred to court. “He was not even investigated, but was still handed a death sentence,” he said.
He also called for a retrial, urging the Egyptian authorities not to resort to the death penalty altogether.