AN Egyptian court has confirmed a death sentence handed to ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi over a mass prison break during the 2011 uprising that eventually brought him to power.
The ruling was read out by judge Shaaban al-Shami after he consulted with Egypt’s Mufti, a religious authority affiliated with the judiciary, as required by law in cases involving capital punishment.
“The court panel has unanimously agreed that there is no room for leniency or mercy for the defendants,” al-Shami, who presides over a panel of three, said before confirming the death sentence. The Mufti’s opinions are not binding, and the ruling will automatically be referred to Egypt’s highest appeals court.
The judge also confirmed death sentences for five other jailed leading members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, including Mohammed Badie, the group’s leader, and Saad el-Katatni, the head of its short-lived political party.
Al-Shami said the defendants conspired and attempted to kill police officers when they broke into three of Egypt’s prisons, enabling some 20,000 inmates to flee, causing chaos in Egypt and breaching its borders with the Gaza Strip.
Another 21 imprisoned defendants received life sentences in the case, which in Egypt is equivalent to 25 years in prison. Another 93 defendants were tried in absentia and sentenced to death.
Morsi is already serving a 20-year sentence for his part in the killings in 2012 of protesters outside his palace when he was still president.
He was forced out of office in July 2013 by the military amid massive protests demanding his resignation. He has been detained since then, and his Muslim Brotherhood has been labelled a terrorist organisation.
Al-Shami confirmed death sentences against 16 other Islamists, including three jailed senior Brotherhood members. The other 13 were tried in absentia. Morsi was among 17 defendants sentenced to life in prison in that case.
The 2011 uprising brought an end to Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule and Morsi was elected president a year later.
He was deposed by the army in July 2013 following mass street protests against his rule and is already serving a 20-year jail term for ordering the arrest and torture of demonstrators.
His supporters have condemned the death sentence passed down by the court
Morsi was also sentenced to life imprisonment by the same court on Tuesday for spying on behalf of foreign militant groups, including Hamas.
The judge said that the Muslim Brotherhood had “collaborated with Palestinian Hamas to infiltrate Egypt’s eastern borders and attack prisons”, state TV reported.
Sixteen other Muslim Brotherhood members were sentenced to death on charges of delivering secret documents abroad between 2005 and 2013.