Jama’a al-Islamiya leader Assem Abdel Meguid was sentenced to 15 years in prison by the Assiut Criminal Court on Thursday on charges of killing three protesters on June 30, 2013.
Abdel Meguid was tried alongside 34 other defendants, of whom 29 were acquitted and another six received prison sentences ranging from three to 15 years.
The prosecution claims the assailants ambushed protesters near the Assiut governorate headquarters, then ascended to the roof of a neighboring building and opened fire. Three men were killed in the incident.
However, Jama’a al-Islamiya members contest the charges.
“Abdel Meguid is a physically challenged old man who could not have possibly taken part in the events of the governorate building in Assiut,” a source who requested not to be named told Mada Masr.
The source claimed that Abdel Meguid wasn’t even in Assiut on June 30 last year, speculating that the sentence might be an act of retribution against him for his incendiary rhetoric against secular movements in Egypt.
The guilty verdict was issued in absentia, as Abdel Meguid has reportedly lived in Qatar since he fled the country in the aftermath of former President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster.
“Verdicts of this sort are usually issued as a threat or to make a point,” Radwan al-Touny — deputy chair of Jama’a al-Islamiya’s political arm, the Construction and Development Party, and a member of Abdel Meguid’s defense team — told Mada Masr.
On June 25, 2013, Abdel Meguid gave a speech from Assiut’s Magdoum Square in which he allegedly incited his followers to attack and kill protesters in the upcoming June 30 rallies against Morsi’s administration. The criminal charges levied against Abdel Meguid were in retaliation against this speech, not because the defendant committed any crime, his lawyer claimed.
Prosecutors played a recording of the speech during the trial, and it contained no incriminating evidence, Touny argued.
In the speech, Abdel Meguid “spoke of peaceful protesting and called on his followers to avoid the June 30 marches in order to avoid potential clashes with protesters,” the lawyer said.
However, transcripts show that Abdel Meguid’s speech was more violent in nature than his lawyer admits. “We will mobilize 100,000 men from Upper Egypt if a veil or beard is touched by a traitor … If you touch us, Upper Egyptians will be head you,” he had declared.
If Abdel Meguid is arrested or voluntarily turns himself in, then he will have the right to challenge the verdict and demand a retrial, Touny continued.
This is the latest in a string of criminal convictions against Abdel Meguid. In August, he was sentenced to death by the Giza Criminal Court on charges of killing protesters near the Istiqama Mosque during clashes there in July, 2013. He had also been convicted of helping to plot the 1981 assassination of former President Anwar al-Sadat, for which he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He received a presidential pardon from Morsi on those charges.