Seventy-five people have been sentenced to death for participating in a protest in 2013. According to CNN, the demonstration was in support of former President Mohamed Morsy. The court has now “referred their cases to the country’s Grand Mufti for a final decision.”
In 2013, the removal of Morsy, who was a former Brotherhood leader and the country’s first democratically elected president, caused a month-long protest which started as a sit-in at Rabaa al-Adawiya and al-Nahda squares in Cairo. The protest ultimately ended in violence as Egyptian security forces were commanded to break up the demonstration by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, using automatic weapons, armored personnel carriers and military bulldozers. Seventy-five protestors, including prominent Muslim Brotherhood members Mohamed Badie, Essam El-Erian, Mohamed El-Beltagy, and Wagdy Ghoneim, were quickly arrested for their protest.
The actions of the Egyptian security forces were met with sharp criticism worldwide. Many international rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, condemned the Egyptian government. Just over a year after the protests, Human Rights Watch released a report which “found [that] at least 817 people were killed in the violence.”
Undeterred by the criticism, the Egyptian government called the Muslim Brotherhood terrorists and banned the organization.
The 75 defendants who have been sentenced to death were accused of “attacking citizens, resisting authorities, destroying public property and buildings, and possessing firearms and Molotov cocktails.”
Before any death sentence can be carried out in Egypt, the law states that the Grand Mufti, which is Egypt’s highest Islamic authority must state their opinion on the sentence. Though the Grand Mufti’s opinion is non-binding, it is rarely ignored. In 2014, the Mufti rejected a previous death sentence issued for Badie. Instead, he was sentenced to life in prison, according to Al Jazeera.
Amnesty International, another organization fighting for international human rights, has tweeted about the ruling, pointing out that none of the Egyptian security force have been arrested for their part in the violence during the protests.
#Egypt: The verdict for @ShawkanZeid in the Rabaa dispersal case has been postponed to 8 September. 75 other men in the same case remain at risk of the death penalty. No members of the security forces have been held responsible for the violent dispersal of the Rabaa protest.
— AmnestyInternational (@amnesty) July 28, 2018
When asked about the incident in 2017, Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International said the following.
“The dark legacy of this failure to bring anyone to justice is that Egypt’s security forces today feel that they will not be held accountable for committing human rights violations.”
The final verdict in the case against the 75 protestors will be issued on September 8. No matter the decision, the protestors will still have the right to an appeal.
An additional 739 people are being tried for protesting at Rabaa al-Adawiya and al-Nahda squares.