An Egyptian court has sentenced 75 people to death, including senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood over a sit-in protest in Cairo that ended with the killing of hundreds of protesters.
Senior Brotherhood leaders Essam el-Erian and Mohamed Beltagi were sentenced to death, while Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, was handed a life sentence.
Prize-winning photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zaid, known as Shawkan, was handed five-year jail sentence after being arrested in August 2013 while covering the unrest. He is now likely to walk free “within a few days” having already spent five years in detention, his lawyer Karim Abdelrady said on Saturday.
Lawyers for Shawkan said he would be out in a “few days”.
Those sentenced on Saturday are accused of security-related offences, including incitement to violence and organizing illegal protests.
On August 14, 2013, police dispersed a mass sit-in protest in Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya Square. The security forces killed more than 800 people in a matter of hours, in what Human Right Watch (HRW)concluded, “likely amounted to crimes against humanity”.
According to HRW, about 85,000 protesters joined the sit-in, which extended for over 45 days and grew larger and more organized with time.Government forces moved in with armoured vehicles, bulldozers, and hundreds of security forces moving in the early hours.
The protest was staged by supporters of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first elected president and Muslim Brotherhood leader, who was overthrown by a military coup a few weeks earlier.
Thousands were arrested on the day of the massacre and in the months following.
Rights groups, including Amnesty International, had said the mass trial reflected a crackdown on dissent and freedoms under Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi’s rule, who was re-elected last March after his electoral challengers were sidelined.
Egyptian courts have subsequently sentenced hundreds to death or lengthy jail terms at mass trials that rights groups said have made a mockery of due process.