Egypt's Ousted President Morsi Sentenced to 20 Years in Jail

Youssra El-Sharkawy/Cairo
Egypt's Ousted President Morsi Sentenced to 20 Years in Jail

Egypt's ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was today sentenced to 20 years in jail by a court here over charges related to the killing of 10 protesters when he was in power, the first ruling against the country's first freely elected leader.

The 63-year-old former president was, however, acquitted of murder charges in the killing outside the presidential palace in December, 2012 that would have seen him face the death penalty.

Besides Morsi, the criminal court sentenced 12 other top Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including senior figures Mohamed el-Beltagy and Essam el-Erian, to 20 years in jail as they stood in a soundproof glass cage inside a makeshift courtroom at the national police academy here.

Judge Ahmed Sabry Youssef read out the ruling against him, the first in the case, but can be appealed. The sentencing was broadcast live on state television.

The conviction and no strong reactions from the party show the dramatic downfall of Egypt's once-powerful Muslim Brotherhood and its leader.

Morsi - who was deposed by the military in July, 2013 after thousands of people took to the streets demanding his removal - and 13 others were charged with killing protesters, possessing weapons, and inciting violence in the dispersal of the peaceful sit-in in front of the presidential palace.

The judge dropped murder charges against all 14 defendants and said the sentence was linked to the "show of force" and unlawful detention associated with the case.

This is one of the major trials against the Muslim Brotherhood linked ex-president who came to power after the downfall of longtime president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Morsi is currently in prison over other cases, including espionage, escaping from prison during the January 25 Revolution in 2011, insulting the judiciary and spying and handing documents of national security importance to Qatari intelligence through the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera news channel.

The incident took place in December 2012, during Morsi's presidency, after opposition forces rallied in front of the Ittihadeya presidential palace to hold a sit-in to peacefully protest his decree in which he ordered that the president shall be immune from any judicial oversight.

Clashes erupted outside the palace and 10 people were killed, including 33-year-old journalist el-Husseini Abu Deif.

Four of the 12 defendants in the case are being tried in absentia.

Authorities have banned the Muslim Brotherhood party and arrested thousands of Morsi's supporters.

Amnesty International condemned the trial, terming it as a "sham" and called for Morsi's release.

"This verdict shatters any remaining illusion of independence and impartiality in Egypt's criminal justice system," Amnesty's deputy Middle East and North Africa director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said in a statement.

"Convicting Mohammed Morsi, despite fundamental flaws in the legal process and what seems to be at best flimsy evidence produced in court under a gag order, utterly undermines this verdict," the statement said.

An Egyptian court last month sentenced Muslim Brotherhood supreme leader Mohamed Badie and 13 other leaders to death.

Yesterday, a local court sentenced 22 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death for attacking a police station in July 2013 and killing a policeman.

Today's verdict did not trigger any immediate street protests in what can be seen as repercussions of a heavy security crackdown on any show of dissent.

During the hearing, the defendants - including Morsi - dressed in white jumpsuits showed muted reactions to the verdict, in stark contrast to the leader's bold "I am the president of the republic!" reply to the court when the trial had begun.

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