Egypt hits back at critics of Morsi death ruling

Ahram Online , Sunday 17 May 2015

The State Information Service on Sunday railed against critics of the mass death sentences handed out Saturday, saying all defendants were afforded fair trials

Ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi
Ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi raises his hands as he sits behind glass in a courtroom, in a converted lecture hall in the national police academy in an eastern Cairo suburb, Egypt, Saturday, May 16, 2015 (Photo: AP)

Egypt's State Information Service (SIS) condemned Sunday the wave of criticism that followed the death sentence passed Saturday against former president Mohamed Morsi and other defendants, saying the reactions of critics reflected "ignorance and inaccuracy."

Cairo Criminal Court handed a preliminary death sentence to Morsi and 105 other defendants in the trial known as the "Wadi Natroun jailbreak case." The court also issued the same ruling to Muslim Brotherhood leaders Mohamed El-Beltagy and Khairat El-Shater, along with 14 others, in the trial known as the "Hamas espionage case."

The SIS, the Egyptian state's official public relations agency, reiterated that these are not "verdicts" as the court has sent its decision in the Wadi Natroun case to the country's grand mufti, a senior Muslim cleric, for a consultative review as required by Egyptian law, setting 2 June as the date for a final verdict.

Most critics, however, referred to the rulings as final legal verdicts.

The SIS statement continued that the defendants were tried before a civil criminal court and not an special tribunal, which guarantees they received a fair trial, contrary to what doubters believe.

"In case death sentences were issued against the defendants in both trials ... all defendants have the right to appeal against the verdicts before the appeals court," the SIS statement said.

"If the appeal is accepted the sentences will be revoked and retrials will take place before a different court. And even if the new court returns death verdicts, the defendants will have the right to appeal for a second time."

The SIS called on critics to understand the situation and assess it objectively. It is also important, the statement reads, not to forget the nature of the charges levelled against the defendants.

The accusations include committing hostile acts against the country, attacking police facilities and officers and soldiers, breaking out of Egyptian prisons and sabotaging prision buildings, killing some prisoners and officers and soldiers premeditatedly, kidnapping officers and soldiers, and cooperating with foreign powers.

"Those who were arrested are accused of criminal acts that represent a violation of Egyptian law, and they are the same criminal charges in accordance to the laws in the other countries that ostensibly apply democratic principles," the SIS statement reads.

The Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails and that now is listed as a terrorist organisation, and allies strongly condemned the court rulings against Morsi and other defendants.

The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, a pro-Morsi coalition, issued a statement following the verdict saying that they "reject the principle of prosecuting the country's elected president Mohamed Morsi."

The Palestinian Hamas, a sister organisation of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood that is incriminated in the jailbreak case, condemned the death sentences meted out against a number of its members, describing the verdicts as "unfortunate and shocking."

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu-Zuhri said in a statement that the verdict was based on "false information," adding that some of the convicted had died before the Egyptian revolution, such as "martyrs Tayseer Abu-Senema and Hossam El-Sanea," while others have been in the "prisons of the occupation for years," such as Hassan Salama, who has been imprisoned for 19 years in Israel.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also condemned the death sentence handed out to Morsi, saying it represented a return to "ancient Egypt," AFP reported.

"The popularly-elected president of Egypt ... has unfortunately been sentenced to death. Egypt is turning back into ancient Egypt," Erdogan said at a rally in Istanbul, accusing the West of "turning a blind eye" to what he described as the 2013 coup that ousted Morsi.

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