Egyptian court sentences 529 Brotherhood members to death
An Egyptian court sentenced 529 members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to death for murder and other offences today, in a sharp escalation of a crackdown on the movement.
Family members stood outside the courthouse screaming after the verdict - the biggest mass death sentence handed out in Egypt's modern history, defence lawyers said.
Turmoil has deepened since the army overthrew Egypt's first freely elected president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, in July. Security forces have killed hundreds of Brotherhood members in the streets and arrested thousands.
Human rights groups said today's verdict suggested the authorities intended to tighten their squeeze on the opposition.
State television reported the sentences without comment. A government spokesman and other government officials did not immediately respond to calls.
Most of the defendants at the hearing were detained
and charged with carrying out attacks during clashes which erupted in the southern province of Minya after the forced dispersal of two Muslim Brotherhood protest camps in Cairo on August 14.
Islamist militants have also stepped up assaults on the police and army since Morsi's ouster, killing hundreds and carrying out high profile operations against senior interior ministry officials.
"The court has decided to sentence to death 529 defendants, and 16 were acquitted," defence lawyer Ahmed al-Sharif told Reuters. The condemned men can appeal against the ruling.
The Muslim Brotherhood, largely driven underground, responded by calling for the "downfall of military rule" on its official website.
Mohamed Mahsoub, who served as minister of legal affairs under Mursi, described the court's decision "a ruling calling for the execution of justice" on his Facebook page.
Supporters set fire to a nearby school in protest, state television reported, though security officials said they had received no reports of unrest.