An Egyptian court sentenced 75 people to death for participating in a 2013 protest against the overthrow of the country’s democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi.
Senior members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood organisation were among those ordered executed by the Cairo Criminal Court on Saturday for their involvement with the sit-in demonstration at Rabaa Square in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.
The rulings will be referred to Egypt’s chief Islamic legal authority, the Grand Mufti, for a non-binding opinion. Egyptian law requires any capital sentence to be referred to the Grand Mufti before any execution can take place.
The Mufti’s decision is rarely ignored by the courts. In 2014, the Mufti rejected a death sentence proposed for the leader of the Brotherhood, Mohamed Badie, who is part of the same case. Badie has since been sentenced to life in prison.
A final verdict is expected by September 8.
The case is part of a mass trial being conducted by the court involving 739 defendants alleged to have been involved in the 2013 sit-in, which was violently broken up.
Amnesty International says the dispersal of the sit-in killed more than 800 protesters. Egypt’s government said many demonstrators were armed and 43 police officers were killed.
Husain Baoumi, an Egypt campaigner for Amnesty International, told Al Jazeera the court’s decision was “shocking” and “completely unfair … [as] not a single member of the security service has been held to account”.
“The court is likely to hand this sentence down, its just a technicality [for it] to go through the Grand Mufti,” he added.
Cairo, meanwhile, has repeatedly defended the approach taken by the security services, saying authorities allowed protesters the opportunity to leave peacefully, and armed elements within the Muslim Brotherhood initiated the violence.
The Muslim Brotherhood was banned following Morsi’s overthrow in July 2013 in a coup led by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who became the country’s president a year later. Sisi was re-elected in March this year.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies