An Egyptian court has handed down life sentences to two supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood movement, intensifying crackdown on dissent despite international outrage.
In a verdict on Saturday, the court also sentenced 16 others to 15 years in jail and exonerated 86 of the defendants.
The defendants stood trial in a case related to a 2013 revolt in a Cairo neighborhood which came after the ouster of former president and key member of Brotherhood Mohamed Morsi.
The court ruled that the convicts were involved in charges that included murder, assault, joining an armed gang, resisting arrest, damaging public and private property, and possession of firearms.
The defendants had taken part in a mass march in the run-down Cairo district of Boulaq Abou al-Ela, two days after sit-ins supporting the group were violently dispersed, leaving hundreds dead. Seven people were killed during the riot that followed the pro-Brotherhood march.
Violence has gripped Egypt since Morsi, Egypt’s president who was democratically elected following the 2011 ouster of longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak, was removed from power in what many described as a coup led by the current president and then army chief, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
The Egyptian courts have held mass trials for thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters and members since Sisi took power in June 2014. The army general denies international accusations of direct involvement in the trials, which have seen hundreds, including Morsi and top Brotherhood leadership, receiving death sentences or lengthy prison terms. Sisi claims the judiciary is acting independently.
Sisi’s government has outlawed Brotherhood, Egypt’s oldest opposition movement which operated under numerous restrictions during the Mubarak era.
Egypt’s Appeals Court has recently upheld some draconian sentences handed down to key Brotherhood members. On Wednesday, the court ruled that Mohammed Badie, Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, along with 36 others, who included ministers in Morsi’s government, deserved life behind bars for inciting violence and murder.
Morsi himself has been sentenced in four cases since his ouster, including to 20 years in jail for escaping prison in 2011. The Appeals Court endorsed the sentence last week, rejecting Morsi’s appeal.