An Egyptian court here on Monday sentenced to death the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and more than 680 other people after a swift mass trial on charges of inciting or committing acts of violence that led to the destruction of a police station and the killing of an officer.
The verdict, after a trial lasting only a few minutes, came just a month after the same judge drew condemnation from around the world for sentencing 529 other people to death in a similarly lightning-fast mass trial. The judge, Sayedd Yousef, affirmed the death sentences Monday of about 40 of the defendants and commuted the others to life in prison, which is understood here to mean 25 years.
The verdicts Monday and last month are subject to appeal. Both sets of trials involved sentences in absentia for many defendants who are still at large, and if they are arrested will receive a retrial. But there has been little, if any, public criticism of the decisions from within the Egyptian judiciary, once regarded as a bastion of relative liberalism within Egypt’s authoritarian system.
In a separate ruling on Monday, a Cairo court banned the activities of the April 6 group, a liberal organization that spearheaded the revolt against President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The group continued its work opposing police brutality and pushing for democratic reforms under Morsi, and it has continued to defend the right to dissent since his military ouster last summer.
In each of the batches of sentences issued Monday and last month, however, only one police officer was alleged to have been killed, and none of those sentenced to death on Monday was charged with participating in his murder. Many of those punished, including Mohamed Badie, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, were sentenced to death for lesser crimes, including committing or inciting acts of violence.
Badie was in Cairo at the time of the attacks, and he repeatedly emphasized non-violence in his public remarks in the period leading up the crackdown and the backlash against it. It was unclear what basis the court found for linking him to the attacks.
“Our peacefulness is stronger than their bullets,” he declared in a speech at the main Cairo sit-in, a phrase that became a Brotherhood rallying cry. It was unclear what basis the court found for linking him to the attacks.
His death sentence marks another dramatic escalation in the repression of the