Egypt’s Morsi risks death penalty in first trial verdict
A death sentence against the country’s first freely elected president would be a blow against his Muslim Brotherhood movement — target of a brutal government crackdown since then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi overthrew him on July 3, 2013.
The Brotherhood called for protests in support of Morsi.
“The coup commander is exploiting the judiciary as a weapon in the battle against the popular will and the democratic and revolutionary legitimacy represented by President Mohamed Morsi,” it said in a statement.
Morsi could also face the death penalty in two other trials, including one in which he is accused of spying for foreign powers.
Verdicts in those two cases are due on May 16.
Experts say a death sentence cannot be ruled out on Tuesday, as judges have already handed down harsh sentences against other Islamist leaders. Earlier this month, another court sentenced Brotherhood chief Mohamed Badie to death.
Morsi was toppled after mass street protests against his year-long rule.
The new authorities then launched a sweeping crackdown on his supporters in which more than 1,400 people have been killed and thousands jailed.
Hundreds have been sentenced to death in speedy mass trials which the United Nations has called “unprecedented in recent history”.
The authorities have also targeted secular and liberal activists who spearheaded the 2011 uprising against longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak, Morsi’s predecessor.
In November, a court dropped murder charges against Mubarak in his own trial over the deaths of hundreds of protesters in 2011.
Tuesday’s verdict involves charges that Morsi and 14 other defendants, seven of whom are on the run, incited the killing of three protesters and the torture of several others during clashes outside the presidential palace on December 5, 2012.
The protesters were demonstrating against a Morsi decree that put him above judicial review when they clashed with his supporters.
Defence lawyers say there is no proof Morsi incited the clashes.
Even if he escapes the death penalty, Morsi could still face life in jail.
The verdict is open to appeal.