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Egypt sentences 75 Islamist demonstrators to death over Morsi protest

Egypt sentenced 75 people to death, including prominent Islamist leaders, over a sit-in 2013 which ended in the killing of hundreds of protesters.

Senior Brotherhood leaders Essam al-Erian and Mohamed Beltagi and prominent Islamist preacher Safwat Higazi are among the dozens sentenced to death by hanging.

The August 2013 Rabaa massacre ended in the deaths of hundreds of protesters when Egyptian security services cleared mass camps which had occupied the capital’s al-Nahda and Rabaa al-Adawiya squares.

The military raided the two sites after six weeks of peaceful protests in support of President Mohamed Morsi, ousted in a military coup, developed into large camps occupying the squares.

Police and soliers used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition to disperse the crowds while bulldozing the camp, which broke out into fatal fires. At least 817 were killed in the dispersal – or closer to 1,000 according to Human Rights Watch estimates.

Egyptian courts jailed 262 people from three years to life in January, for charges ranging from causing he death of two policemen to attempted murder and vandalism, Reuters reported.

The government accused the Muslim Brotherhood of encouraging an Islamist insurgency since Morsi’s removal and said militants had killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police.

HRW called the massacre “one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history”.

“MOCKERY OF JUSTICE”

Following weeks of protests in 2013 against the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi by the military — led at the time by Egypt’s current president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi — security forces violently broke up the demonstrators at Rabaa square.

They arrested hundreds of people who were charged with inciting violence, murder and organizing illegal protests.

Rights groups have criticized the trial for including many peaceful protesters and journalists.

“We condemn today’s verdict in the strongest terms,” Amnesty International said in a statement. “The fact that not a single police officer has been brought to account … shows what a mockery of justice this trial was.”

Since Sisi was elected president in 2014, authorities have justified a crackdown on dissent and freedoms as being directed at militants and saboteurs trying to undermine the state.

Death sentences have been handed down to hundreds of his political opponents on charges such as belonging to an illegal organization or planning to carry out an attack.

Supporters say a security crackdown is needed to stabilize Egypt, which still faces an Islamist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula and is reeling financially from years of unrest.

Critics say the erosion of freedoms and silencing of political opponents is the worst Egypt has seen in its modern history.

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