Rights advocates and lawmakers are urging US President Joe Biden to pressure Egypt to improve its rights record.
A senior leader of Egypt’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group has been convicted on “terror” charges and sentenced to life in prison, state media has reported.
According to the state-owned Middle East News Agency, a Cairo court on Thursday found Mahmoud Ezzat, the acting supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, guilty of “terror acts” that followed the 2013 military overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi.
Ezzat was sentenced on charges of inciting violence and supplying firearms during clashes outside the Brotherhood’s headquarters between its supporters and opponents in 2013, Reuters news agency reported, citing a judicial source. Other senior members of the Brotherhood, the country’s oldest Islamist organisation, have been sentenced to life in prison in the same case.
Ezzat’s lawyer made no immediate comment. At the time of Ezzat’s arrest, the Brotherhood said he had been pursued on “false political charges”.
Last summer, 76-year-old Ezzat was arrested after police found him hiding in an apartment on the outskirts of Cairo, the latest blow to the movement that has been the target of a crackdown.
According to authorities at the time, a search of the apartment uncovered computers and mobile phones with encrypted software that allowed Ezzat to communicate with group members in Egypt and abroad. Documents with “destructive plans” were also found, police said.
Ezzat had been at large since the summer of 2013, after the military removed Morsi, who hailed from Brotherhood ranks.
Morsi’s short-lived rule proved divisive and provoked mass protests nationwide. The former president died after collapsing in court during one of his trials in June 2019.
Ezzat was believed to have fled the country along with many of the group’s leaders following the crackdown on their organisation.
Ezzat was an influential former deputy to Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie, and considered a hardliner within the group. He became acting leader after Badie’s arrest in August 2013.
He was previously convicted of several crimes related to “terror” and sentenced twice to death in absentia. Following his arrest, he was retried, as Egyptian law dictates.
Other senior members of the group have been jailed or left the country.