Egyptian Court Sentences 529 Morsi Supporters To Death

An Egyptian criminal court on Monday sentenced them to death over the killing of a police officer. Human rights groups say the unprecedented verdict followed a sham trial that wrapped up in 2 days.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning. In Egypt yesterday, a criminal court sentenced 529 people to death over the killing of a police officer. The verdict has been described as unprecedented and humanitarian critics say the two-day trial that preceded it was a sham. Here's NPR's Leila Fadel from Cairo.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Human rights groups call the mass death sentences the most severe verdict they've seen in modern history. The charges against the accused supporters of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood include inciting violence, arson and the murder of one policeman this summer. And the majority of the defendants were convicted in absentia.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOUTING, SOBBING)

FADEL: A video posted online from outside the courtroom showed family members sobbing and screaming in disbelief. Since the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July, thousands of people have been killed and thousands more arrested in an intense crackdown on Islamists and critical voices. Amnesty International's Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui says this takes Egypt's crackdown to a new level.

HASSIBA HADJ SAHRAOUI: What we see is really a justice system and ruling that have nothing to do with the law and nothing to do with the facts.

FADEL: Observers fear more harsh sentences to come. Egyptian law requires that the death sentences be approved by Egypt's top religious jurist, the Grand Mufti. Lawyers for the convicted say they will appeal. Leila Fadel NPR News, Cairo.

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