An Egyptian court has sentenced former President Mohammed Morsi to death in connection with a mass jail break in 2011, Sky News reports. Sitting in a caged dock, Morsi pumped his fists in the air in defiance as the judge read his verdict. Another 105 members of the Muslim Brotherhood were also given the capital punishment. The defendants were accused of plotting jailbreaks and attacks on police during the uprising that overthrew longtime President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
The cases, like any capital sentence, will be referred to Egypt’s top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, for his non-binding opinion before any executions can take place. Morsi, however, was spared the death sentence by the court on charges that he and his aides passed state secrets to foreign groups, including Palestinians’ Hamas and Lebanon’s Hizbollah, to destabilise Egypt.
But the court sought capital punishment for Brotherhood leader Khairat el-Shater and 15 others for conspiring with foreign militant groups against Egypt. Muslim Brotherhood official Amr Darrag has condemned the ruling as politically-motivated and called on the international community to take action. “This is a political verdict and represents a murder crime that is about to be committed, and it should be stopped by the international community,” Mr Darrag told Reuters in Istanbul.
Morsi is already serving a 20-year sentence following his conviction on 21 April on charges linked to the killing of protesters outside a Cairo presidential palace in December 2012. He became Egypt’s first freely-elected leader in June 2012 in the wake of the uprising that ousted Mubarak. But he was removed from power by the army in 2013 after protests against his presidency. Sky’s Middle East Correspondent Sherine Tadros said the verdict is significant because it marks the first time in Egypt’s history that a president has been sentenced to death.
“Of course Mohammed Morsi will appeal this verdict, it will be a lengthy appeal, so don’t expect he will be executed any time soon,” she added. The army chief who overthrew Morsi, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, is now president after having won elections last year. He has pledged to eradicate the Brotherhood, once the largest political movement in the country. Human rights groups have accused Egyptian authorities of widespread abuses in a crackdown on Brotherhood supporters as well as secular activists, allegations they deny.