Egypt is facing international criticism after it upheld the death sentence against deposed President Mohamed Morsi, with the US, its military ally, calling it “deeply troubling” and “politically motivated”.
The Muslim Brotherhood is an organisation that has gone on for more than 80 years. Imprisoning our leaders will not stop us from fighting.
The UN chief also expressed concern, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the verdicts against Morsi and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood as “a massacre of law and basic rights”.
The statements came after a Cairo court on Tuesday upheld the death sentences issued for the alleged plotting of jailbreaks and attacks on police during the 2011 revolution.
The general guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Badie, and four other Brotherhood leaders were also handed the death penalty. More than 90 others were sentenced to death in absentia.
“The United Nations is against the use of the death penalty in all circumstances,” the press office of UN chief Ban Ki-moon said. “The secretary-general is concerned that such verdicts, handed down after mass trials, may well have a negative impact on the prospects for long-term stability in Egypt.”
Erdogan asked the international community to force Egypt to withdraw the sentences.
“We call on the international community to act to withdraw these death sentences, given under the instructions of the coup regime, and to put an end to this path which could seriously endanger the peace of Egyptian society,” he said.
The court had initially sentenced Morsi and more than 100 other defendants to death last month.
Call for protests
The Muslim Brotherhood called the trial a “sham” and urged Egyptians to come out for a “popular uprising” on Friday.
Supporters of the movement took to the streets in Cairo shortly after the court delivered the verdicts, and also in cities outside Egypt, including London and Istanbul.
Tuesday’s ruling came after the court consulted Egypt’s grand mufti, the government interpreter of Islamic law, who plays an advisory role.
Earlier on Tuesday, the same court sentenced Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, to life in prison on charges of spying for the Palestinian Hamas movement, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and Iran.
The verdicts can be appealed.
Then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ousted Morsi on July 3, 2013, and since then has overseen a sweeping crackdown against his supporters.
The crackdown has left hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters dead and thousands jailed.
Hundreds have been sentenced to death after speedy mass trials described by the UN as “unprecedented in recent history”.
In the jailbreak trial, exiled Egyptian-born cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi was also condemned to death in absentia from his base in Qatar.
Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice Party spokesman Nader Oman told Al Jazeera from Istanbul that his organisation was surprised by Tuesday’s verdict.
“I’m surprised because the charges are groundless and there is no chance for any of the defendants to defend themselves,” Oman said.
“The Muslim Brotherhood is an organisation that has gone on for more than 80 years. Imprisoning our leaders will not stop us from fighting.”