Egypt's ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for inciting violence that led to the death of ten people during clashes outside the Ittihadiya presidential palace in December 2012.
Fourteen other defendants, including Muslim Brotherhood leading figures Mohamed El-Beltagy and Essam El-Erian, and ex-presidential aides, also received twenty-year sentences on the same charge. Ali Gamal Saber and Abdel-Hakim Abdel-Rahman received ten-year sentences.
However, Morsi and all other 14 defendants were acquitted of the more serious charge of premeditated murder.
This is the first verdict issued against Morsi since his ouster in July 2013.
The verdict can still be appealed. However, Abdel-Monem Abdel-Maqsoud of Morsi’s defense team told Ahram Online they are still undecided on the issue as Morsi does not recognise the court. The team had previously filed a report stating the court does not have jurisdiction to conduct the trial, a request that was rejected.
Morsi and 14 others were on trial over the 2012 Ittihadiya clashes in which ten people died and dozens were injured in clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi protesters outside the Ittihadiya presidential palace on 5 December 2012.
Morsi faced charges of inciting his supporters and aides to commit murder, use violence and thuggery, as well as illegally detain protesters and torture them.
El-Beltagy and El-Erian, in addition to Islamist preacher Wagdi Ghoneim who is at large, were accused of incitement to commit the aforementioned crimes. The rest of the defendants, including ex-presidential aides, were faced with committing the crimes themselves.
The pro-Morsi National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL) said in a statement Tuesday it rejects the trial and regards the verdict as “null.” It also said it shall continue to revolt against the current government that it regards illegitimate.
Morsi arrived by helicopter at the court inside the Police Academy on the outskirts of Cairo where his predecessor Hosni Mubarak, ousted in 2011, was also tried.
Morsi still faces four other trials: over charges of “collaborating with foreign organisations to commit acts of terrorism in Egypt,” leaking documents to Qatar, breaking out of prison in 2011, and insulting the judiciary during one of the trials, according to one of his defence lawyers Montaser El-Zayat.
Morsi, formerly head of the Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, became the party’s candidate in the 2012 presidential election when the Brotherhood’s original first-choice candidate Khairat El-Shater – also now in jail – was disqualified by the Supreme Elections Committee.
Morsi won the election in a tense run-off with ex-premier Ahmed Shafiq, when many voters, though with some reluctance, saw him as the lesser of two evils against Shafiq, a face from ex-president Hosni Mubarak’s unwanted old regime.
Criticism of Morsi’s rule quickly began to surface, not only over the ambiguity of the Brotherhood’s influence on him, but also for his introduction of a constitutional declaration in November 2012 which immunised his decisions against judicial review.
He was ousted by the army and opposition forces amid mass public demonstrations against his rule on 3 July 2013.