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Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's ex-leader, sentenced to death

May 16th, 2015 | Tags: death sentence Egypt Mohammed Morsi ex-leader
Morsi has rejected the authority of the courts. Photo: BBC

An Egyptian court has pronounced death sentences on ousted president Mohammed Morsi and more than 100 other people over a mass prison break in 2011.

Morsi is already serving a 20-year prison term for ordering the arrest and torture of protesters while in power.

Egypt's religious authorities will now have to give their opinion before the sentence can be carried out.

Morsi's supporters from his Muslim Brotherhood movement have described the charges against him as "farcical".

He was deposed by the military in July 2013 following mass street protests against his rule.

Since then, the authorities have banned the Muslim Brotherhood and arrested thousands of his supporters.

Protest against Morsi's 20-year prison sentence , Cairo, 24 April 2015Morsi's supporters took to the streets in protest after he was given a 20-year jail sentence in April

Morsi raised both fists in defiance as the sentences were given.

He was one of more than 100 other defendants to be sentenced to death for their involvement in mass jail breaks during the 2011 uprising against Egypt's then-president, Hosni Mubarak.

Morsi, who escaped from Wadi Natroun prison in January 2011, was accused of colluding with foreign militants in a plot to free Islamists during the mass prison breaks.

Many of his co-defendants were Palestinians accused of being members of militant group Hamas, and were charged in absentia.

The court also issued rulings on another case, sentencing 16 Muslim Brotherhood members, including deputy leader Khairat al-Shater, to death on spying charges.

Morsi, who also faces espionage charges, will be issued a verdict in that case at a later date.

Fireworks in the sky above Tahrir Square on 3 July 2013Huge crowds gathered in Tahrir Square to celebrate when the military ousted Mr Morsi

Hundreds of people have been sentenced to death in a crackdown on the Brotherhood following Morsi's removal in 2013.

However, it is thought that only one such death sentence has been carried out so far.

All death sentences must first be sent to the grand mufti, Egypt's highest religious authority, for his non-binding opinion on whether they should stand.

Convictions are still open to appeal, even if the grand mufti gives his approval.

'Erasing democracy'

Morsi's supporters have condemned the cases against him as a political show trial.

Amr Darrag, a former minister in Morsi's government, described Saturday as "one of the darkest days" in Egypt's history.

"These latest charges are another deeply disturbing attempt to permanently erase democracy and the democratic process in Egypt," he said in a statement.

The death sentence was also condemned by Amnesty International, which said it had become a tool "to purge the political opposition", and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who likened it to a return to "ancient Egypt".

Morsi was Egypt's first freely elected president, but protests began building less than a year into his rule when he issued a decree granting himself far-reaching powers.

The armed forces, led by then-military chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, ousted Morsi in July 2013.

In May 2014, Mr Sisi became president after securing a landslide victory in presidential elections with a turnout of 46%.

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