An Egyptian court sentenced 75 people to death, 47 to life in prison and hundreds of others were charged Saturday for inciting violence, murder or organizing illegal protests for their participation in the 2013 sit-in in Cairo.
The pro-Muslim Brotherhood protest that occurred at Rabaa Adawiya square five years ago ended in a bloodbath when security forces broke it up after weeks of political unrest.
“The sit-in at a square in a Cairo suburb was staged by supporters of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi of the Brotherhood. He became Egypt’s first freely elected president in 2012 but was ousted in July 2013 by the military following days of street protests calling on him to step down,” writes Fox News.
The Egyptian government claims that at least eight security officials were killed when the protest turned violent, while Civil Rights Groups estimate that over 800 protesters died.
Amnesty International condemned the sentencing and demanded a fair trial for the defendants.
“We condemn today’s verdict in the strongest terms,” said Amnesty International in a statement. “The fact that not a single police officer has been brought to account … shows what a mockery of justice this trial was.”
“The Egyptian authorities should be ashamed. We demand a retrial in an impartial court and in full respect of the right to a fair trial for all defendants, without recourse to the death penalty,’ said Najia Bounaim, a senior Amnesty official.
“In Saturday’s hearing at the vast Tora prison complex south of Cairo, a criminal court sentenced to death by hanging several prominent Islamists including senior Brotherhood leaders al-Erian and Beltagi and preacher Safwat Higazi,” writes Reuters. “Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Mohamed Badie and dozens more were given life sentences, judicial sources said. Others received jail sentences ranging from five to 15 years. Cases were dropped against five people who died while in prison, judicial sources said.”
The decision can be appealed within 60 days and must be given final approval from the current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Many peaceful protesters and journalists were charged including the award-winning photographer Mahmoud Abu Zeid, who was merely covering the protests.
Sisi’s government has been criticized for using force and fear to rule.
“Since Sisi was elected president in 2014, authorities have justified a crackdown on dissent and freedoms as being directed at militants and saboteurs trying to undermine the state,” writes Reuters. “Death sentences have been handed down to hundreds of his political opponents on charges such as belonging to an illegal organization or planning to carry out an attack. Often the sentences are not carried out, but rights groups say hangings have increased in recent years, with dozens taking place each year.”
Sisi’s government also has tight control over the media and has rolled back most of the freedoms activists fought for in the 2011 uprising.
Author’s note: This sentencing is brutal. 75 death sentences over a protest? Not to mention, hundreds of protesters were murdered by the government, yet no government officials are being held accountable. This really makes you appreciate the due process in the U.S.