Egypt sentences 75 to death over Rabaa protests

Senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders among 75 sentenced to death over 2013 Rabaa protests, journalist Shawkan to be freed.

An Egyptian court has sentenced 75 people to death, including senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, over a 2013 sit-in protest in Cairo that ended with the killing of hundreds of protesters.

Senior Brotherhood leaders Essam el-Erian and Mohamed Beltagi were sentenced to death, while Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, was handed a life sentence.

Prominent photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, also known as Shawkan, was handed a five-year sentence but should walk free for time served. He was arrested in August 2013 while covering the killings in Cairo.

Lawyers for Shawkan said he would be out in a “few days”.

In addition to Badie, 46 people were handed life sentences, while 612 other defendants received prison terms ranging from five to 15 years after a mass trial in Cairo.

Among them is Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah Elshamy who was sentenced to 15 years in abstentia. Elshamy was jailed in Egypt without charge for 11 months until he was released in June 2014.

In a statement on Saturday, Al Jazeera Media Network condemned his sentencing as “a continuation of the Egyptian authorities’ efforts to sillence Al Jazeera and its journalists and to deter and intimidate the Network from covering developments in Egypt”.

The Qatar-based network, which launched in June an international campaign called Demand Press Freedom, also condemned the detention of Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein who has been in prison in Egypt for more than 625 days without a trial.

The Egyptian court sentenced 75 people to death [Roger Anis/AP Photo]
The Egyptian court sentenced 75 people to death [Roger Anis/AP Photo]

Those sentenced on Saturday are accused of security-related offences, including incitement to violence and organising illegal protests.

Amnesty International condemned the mass sentences as a “disgrace”.

“The fact that not a single police officer has been brought to account for the killing of at least 900 people in the Rabaa and Nahda protests shows what a mockery of justice this trial was,” said Nadia Bounaim, Amnesty’s North Africa director, in a statement.

On August 14, 2013, police dispersed a mass sit-in protest in Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya Square. The security forces killed more than 800 people in a matter of hours, in what Human Rights Watch (HRW) concluded “likely amounted to crimes against humanity”.

Government forces moved in with armoured vehicles, bulldozers, and hundreds of security forces in the early hours of the day.

According to HRW, about 85,000 protesters joined the sit-in, which extended for over 45 days and grew larger and more organised with time.

The protest was staged by supporters of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first elected president and Muslim Brotherhood leader, who was overthrown by the military a few weeks earlier.

Thousands were arrested on the day of the massacre and in the months following.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies