Egypt's former President Morsi sentenced to 20 years


Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, was jailed for 20 years on Tuesday for his role in the 2012 attacks on people protesting against his rule. By Pol O Gradaigh

Although up to 11 people died during those 2012 clashes, the Cairo Criminal Court only found Morsi guilty of lesser charges. The court, meeting under tight security in a police training college on the outskirts of the capital, passed the same sentence on 12 other former presidential aides and leaders of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood. Two remaining defendants were sentenced to 10 years in jail.

The defendants were found guilty of using force against protesters, false imprisonment and torture, but were cleared on charges of murdering protesters and a journalist killed during the clashes, which could have carried the death penalty. Both the defendants and the prosecution have the right to appeal the verdict, the first against Morsi since he was ousted by then army chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi in 2013 after one year of rule. 

The charges relate to clashes outside the presidential palace in December 2012, when Muslim Brotherhood supporters broke up a sit-in by protesters objecting to a decree in which Morsi granted himself sweeping powers. Morsi's supporters seized opponents and held them for hours in the open on the road outside the palace with their hands tied. Videos apparently taken by the Islamists at the time showed them interrogating their captives, who later accused them of beating them. Other videos from the clashes and reports from witnesses suggested that participants on both sides used homemade firearms.

The full judgement is likely to be released by the court at a later date. Six months after the December 2012 clashes, Morsi was overthrown by Sisi in the wake of mass protests against his increasingly unpopular rule. Morsi was taken into army custody, and was not seen in public until November that year, when the trial started.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which says that most of those killed in the clashes were in fact supporters of Morsi, has denounced the trial as a politicised farce. Throughout the hearings, Morsi refused to recognise the court, arguing that he was still the legitimate president of Egypt and, as such, was not subject to its jurisdiction. At a rowdy first hearing, he told the judge that "the leader of the coup" - in other words, Sisi, who was subsequently elected president, should be on trial instead.

Morsi is also being tried in three separate cases on conspiracy, espionage and jailbreak charges, all of them potentially carrying the death penalty. Hundreds of Islamists have been sentenced to death since Morsi was ousted, mostly over a wave of violence in reaction to the killing of hundreds of the deposed president's supporters as police cleared out Cairo protest camps in August 2013.

Most of the cases remain subject to the two appeals required by Egyptian law in capital cases. Only one Islamist convict is known to have been hanged since Morsi was deposed. (dpa)

For more on the Morsi trial, click here.