Egyptian Court Sentences Ousted President Morsi to Death


CAIRO — An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced to death the deposed president,Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, along with more than 100 others, for fleeing prison during the 2011 revolt against President Hosni Mubarak.

Mr. Morsi’s conviction is the latest sign of the undoing of the uprising that overthrew Mr. Mubarak. Mr. Morsi, who was Egypt’s first freely elected leader, now faces the death penalty for escaping extralegal detention — a form of detention that many Egyptians hoped would be eliminated by the revolution.

If carried out, the sentence could make Mr. Morsi a martyr to millions of Islamists in Egypt and around the world. In a statement about the sentencing, Amr Darrag, a Muslim Brotherhood leader who was a cabinet minister under Mr. Morsi, said it was “one of the darkest days of Egyptian history” and a symbol “of the dark shadow of authoritarianism that is now cast back over Egypt.”

Judge Shaaban el-Shami issued the ruling in a courtroom in a converted auditorium on the grounds of a police academy on the outskirts of Cairo. Mr. Morsi, wearing a blue prison uniform, stood inside a metal and glass cage built in the courtroom. Some of his co-defendants, including other senior Brotherhood leaders, also appeared in the cage.

In a sonorous tone, the judge read a list, spanning three pages, of those sentenced to death. His pronouncement set off cries of “Allahu akbar!” (God is great) from the prisoners. As the session ended, the prisoners waved and chanted “Down with military rule!”

Before they can be carried out, the death sentences must be approved by Egypt’s top Sunni Muslim religious authority, the grand mufti, who is scheduled to make a ruling by June 2. The convictions are also subject to appeal through the court system.

Hours after the verdict was issued, three Egyptian judges were killed by gunmen on a bus in the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt has been shaken by an upsurge in attacks by insurgents in Sinai since Mr. Morsi was deposed by the military in 2013. It was not immediately clear whether Saturday’s attack was connected to the verdict against Mr. Morsi.

The case against Mr. Morsi centers on a prison break that took place at the peak of the revolt against Mr. Mubarak. Mr. Morsi and other Brotherhood officials had been detained, taken from their homes or from street protests, along with many other Egyptians swept up in the turmoil. Mr. Morsi had been held for two days at Wadi Natroun prison, on the highway between Cairo and Alexandria.

The escape came on the night of Jan. 28, 2011, after a day of street battles between the police and protesters. In the chaos of the uprising, some of the guards at Wadi Natroun had abandoned their posts. Armed men overcame the prison’s remaining guards, freeing thousands of inmates, including Mr. Morsi and other Islamist leaders.

Mr. Morsi announced his escape in a call from a satellite phone to the news channel Al Jazeera. Neither before nor during his tenure as president did he face charges over the episode.

Among those sentenced to death on Saturday were about 70 Palestinians, including many tried in absentia. Prosecutors in the case alleged that armed Palestinians had freed inmates from Egyptian prisons after entering the country via tunnels from the neighboring Gaza Strip.

Also on Saturday, the judge sentenced 16 people to death in an espionage case in which Mr. Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders were accused of conspiring with foreign armed groups, including Hamas and the Lebanese group Hezbollah, to destabilize Egypt. Mr. Morsi was not among those condemned to death in that case.

Among those referred to the mufti in the espionage case was Emad Shahin, an Egyptian political scientist now living in the United States. In the jailbreak case, the Brotherhood’s top spiritual guide, Mohamed Badie, and a former Parliament speaker, Mohamed Saad el-Katatni, were also sentenced to death.

Under Egyptian law, Mr. Shahin and the others convicted in absentia are entitled to a retrial if they enter Egypt.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who had cultivated strong ties with Mr. Morsi, denounced the sentence, calling it a return to “ancient Egypt,” and he criticized Western nations for not doing enough to oppose the overthrow of Mr. Morsi.

Mr. Morsi was removed from power by the military in July 2013 after protests that concluded a divisive year in office. He was held incommunicado at a secret location before reappearing during the opening of a trial months later. After Mr. Morsi’s removal from power, the state began a vast crackdown on Islamists and other dissenting voices, killing more than a thousand and arresting tens of thousands.

Mona El-Ghobashy, a visiting scholar at the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life at Columbia University, said Mr. Morsi’s trial was part of the Egyptian authorities’ offensive against the forces of the uprising that toppled Mr. Mubarak.

“The self-appointed permanent guardians of the state, judiciary and military are messaging that the revolution’s political results (free elections, civilian president, right to protest) were unnatural, unreal and unsustainable,” Ms. Ghobashy wrote in an email. “They’re saying to Egyptians: This whole business of democracy and choosing your rulers is a fantasy. That’s not the way power works here.”

“In light of the politically charged environment within which the Morsi prosecutions are taking place, the perception by some may be that these trials are more about political retaliation than bona fide criminal activity,” she said.

Saturday’s ruling was the second against Mr. Morsi in less than a month. In April, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of inciting violence and overseeing the illegal detention and torture of protesters while he was in office. That case centered on a deadly street brawl between Brotherhood supporters and opponents in Cairo in 2012.

He faces separate trials over charges of leaking documents, fraud and insulting the judiciary.

Fonte:nytimes

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