Egypt revokes jail terms against 36 Morsi supporters

CAIRO – Egypt's highest appellate court on Wednesday overturned jail terms and death sentences handed down against 36 people in an infamous lawsuit last year in which hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters were convicted on violence charges.

The court also ordered a retrial for the 36 defendants.

Mohamed Tusson, the defendants' lawyer, said that Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie – sentenced to death in last year's trial – was not included among those whose sentences were overturned Wednesday.

He added, however, that Wednesday's verdict would be useful for filing additional appeals on behalf of the remaining defendants.

In June of last year, a court upheld earlier death sentences handed down against 183 people – including Badie – for allegedly attacking a police station and killing a police officer in Egypt's southern Minya province one year earlier.

The 183 defendants had been among more than one thousand others involved in the same trial.

In a two-phase trial last spring, a Minya court slapped Badie – and 1,120 other defendants – with preliminary death sentences.

The defendants were charged with killing a single policeman and attacking police stations following the 2013 ouster of President Mohamed Morsi – Egypt's first freely elected leader – by the army.

The harsh rulings drew condemnation from western states and international rights groups amid allegations that they were politically motivated.

The Egyptian government, for its part, typically declines to comment on court rulings. However, it has repeatedly stressed that all those currently imprisoned in Egypt are being held for "criminal" wrongdoing.

Egypt's military-backed government has waged a relentless crackdown on political dissent since Morsi's ouster in the summer of 2013.

The ongoing campaign has seen hundreds killed and thousands thrown behind bars.

In late 2013, the Egyptian authorities designated Morsi's decades-old Muslim Brotherhood a "terrorist" organization, blaming it – with scant evidence – for a spate of deadly attacks on security personnel.

The Brotherhood, for its part, denies the allegations, saying it is committed to purely peaceful activism.

Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency