Egypt verdict expected for 700, including Islamist leader by Samer

Egypt verdict expected for 700, including Islamist leader by Samer
Mohamed Damaty, member of the team of Egyptian lawyers defending 42 supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi, talks to journalists outside the courthouse following a hearing in his clients' trial on April 27, 2014 in the capital Cairo.

AL-ATRUSH CAIRO - The Egyptian judge who sentenced to death hundreds of supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last month will issue a verdict Monday on another 700 people, including the leader of his Muslim Brotherhood.

Monday's hearing in a court in the southern province of Minya comes amid a brutal crackdown on supporters of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood since the military overthrew him last July amid massive protests calling for his resignation.

The hearing has come under the spotlight after the judge, Said Yousef Sabry, sentenced an earlier batch of 529 defendants to death in just two sessions last month. That verdict is open to appeal, but has outraged the United Nations and human rights groups.

The second batch of nearly 700, including Mohamed Badie, the head of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, face charges of the murder and attempted murder of several policemen during rioting by supporters of Morsi in Minya on August 14.

The rioting erupted as news spread that police had killed hundreds of Morsi's supporters while dispersing two Cairo protest camps.

The charges are similar to those faced by the 529 defendants.

Monday's session will be the second for the around 700 defendants, after an opening hearing in March, which Sabry adjourned to announce the verdict.

Of the nearly 700 accused, about 50 are in custody while the rest are either out on bail or on the run.

The judge is also expected to ratify the death sentences against the 529 defendants on Monday, but legal experts say an appeals court will likely overturn them.

The judgement can be appealed at the Court of Cassation, which would probably order a new trial or reduce the sentences, legal expert Gamal Eid said.

Under Egyptian law, the court pronounces a death sentence and refers the case to the top Islamic scholar, who plays an advisory role. It then ratifies the sentence in a subsequent hearing.

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