Egypt court confirms mass Islamist death sentences

Relatives of a Muslim Brotherhood member who was sentenced to death react to the verdict outside a courtroom in Minya, Egypt, Saturday, June 21, 2014. AP Photo

An Egyptian court on Saturday confirmed death sentences for more than 180 Islamists, including Muslim Brotherhood chief Mohamed Badie, after a mass trial that sparked an international outcry.
The court in the central city of Minya initially sentenced 683 people to death, but on Saturday commuted death sentences of four defendants to life in prison and acquitted 496 others, prosecutor Abdel Rahim Abdel Malik told AFP.
Since the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July last year, hundreds of his supporters and Badie himself have been sentenced to death in trials roundly criticised by human rights watchdogs.
The 183 whose death sentences were confirmed Saturday were convicted of involvement in the murder of two policemen and the attempted murder of five others in Minya province on August 14, the day police killed hundreds of Morsi supporters in Cairo clashes.
They were also found guilty of vandalism, attacking public property, bearing arms and joining illegal organisations, Abdel Malik said.
Lawyers said most of those sentenced to death are on the run.
"The defence lawyers were unable to attend the trial and defend their clients. The court violated the defendants' rights of defence and gave its decision quickly," said one, Mohammed Tosson, adding they intended to appeal.
Journalists were barred from attending the trial.
The decision came after the court referred its initial April ruling to the country's top Islamic scholar, as required under Egypt's legal system.
Defence lawyer Khaled Elkomy said the case was full of "flaws".
"The judge referred 683...

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