Said Youssef, judge of an Egyptian court, has recommended death sentences for 683 individuals accused of being supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. Those receiving this death sentence recommendation include Mohamed Badie, the leader of the Brotherhood. If Badie is put to death, he would become the most senior member of the group since Sayed Qutb was executed in 1966. Qutb was a leading ideologues for the Brotherhood.
Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsey who had strong ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, was ousted from power in July of last year. Since the removal of Morsey, there has been a huge crackdown on the Brotherhood. After the military coup d’etat removed Morsey from his leadership role, the Egyptian military has essentially run the Brotherhood and their supporters underground.
Earlier this year during another trial, a judge recommended that 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters should be sentenced to death. The sentence, before being carried out was forwarded to the highest religious authority, the Egypt’s Mufti. The Mufti does not have any official power to overturn any sentence levied by the court. The religious authority will return the decision to the court with opinion of the sentence, which the court is not obligated to abide by. In the early trial, after the Mufti vetted the original sentence of death for the 529, only 37 of the death sentences were upheld. The remaining 492 defendants were sentenced to life in prison. The current death sentences for the 683 supporters has also been forwarded on to the Mufti
While the accused, many of whom are free during the trial, are allowed to attend their trial, the military barricaded the area surrounding the court and would not allow the media or family members of those on trial to attend the proceedings. According to reports from an Egyptian lawyer, Ali Kamal in statements made to the Associated Press, sentences were handed out in eight minutes leaving the accused no chance to defend themselves.
These trials are striking concern with world human rights groups. The fear is, some of the accused may have no ties to the Brotherhood and just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. After the first trial of 529 accused, the United Nations Human Rights office referred to the death sentences as “unprecedented in recent history” and even the United States State Department condemned the actions as a disregard of basic justice.
Many of the accused are on the run, fearing either death or life in prison if caught. This most recent mass trial that targeted members of the Brotherhood charged the defendants for an attack on a police station in the Egyptian City of Minya that occurred last year. During the attack, a police officer was killed.
Judge Youssef was also the same judge in the earlier trial that had 492 defendants lives spared. With the world’s attention on the current case and with the death of a police officer, many are concerned that judge will ignore any recommendations from the Mufti and uphold the sentence of death for the 683 on trial. Family members are hopeful that the judge will overturn many of the death sentences.
Judge Youssef has the final decision for the 683 on trial, even if the Mufti recommends lesser sentences than death. Those accused on trial may appeal the sentence. It is not clear how many, if any, are in the process of appealing the sentence.
By Carl Auer