Egypt court sentences Morsi to life in jail for spying

Mohamed MorsiAn Egyptian court sentenced ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi to life in prison on Tuesday on charges of spying for Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, and Iran.

The court also confirmed death sentences against 16 other defendants on charges of delivering secret documents abroad between 2005 and 2013.

The court still has to decide whether to confirm or commute death sentences it handed down against Morsi and more than 100 others in a separate trial on charges related to their escape from prison during the 2011 uprising that ousted veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak.

In Egypt, a life sentence is 25 years in jail. Tuesday’s verdict can be appealed.

The army ousted Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, in July 2013 after mass protests calling for an end to his divisive one-year rule.

He has already been sentenced to 20 years in jail in a separate trial on charges of inciting violence against protesters in 2012 when he was president.

Of the 16 defendants sentenced to death, only three are in custody, including Muslim Brotherhood financier Khairat al-Shater.

Along with Morsi, the court also sentenced the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide Mohamed Badie and 15 others to life in prison. Three other defendants, including a senior presidential aide were sentenced to seven years in prison.

All 35 defendants were convicted of spying on behalf of the international Muslim Brotherhood organisation and Hamas from 2005 to August 2013 “with the aim of perpetrating terror attacks in the country in order to spread chaos and topple the state”.

Since Morsi’s ouster, the authorities have cracked down heavily on his supporters, leaving at least 1,400 people dead and more than 40,000 in custody, according to Human Rights Watch.

Hundreds have been sentenced to death in speedy mass trials, described by the United Nations as “unprecedented in recent history”.

The crackdown has also extended to secular and leftwing activists, who spearheaded the 2011 revolt against Mubarak. Dozens have been jailed under a law that bans all but police-sanctioned demonstrations.

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