The European Union has criticised Egyptian authorities for sentencing the country’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi’s to death, and has urged Egyptian courts to act with respect to international law.
Cairo’s Criminal Court sentenced deposed President Mohamed Morsi to death for breaking out of jail in 2011 despite revising a previous death sentence for espionage down to 25 years in prison.
The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini released a statement saying “the court decision to seek the death penalty for former President Mohamed Morsi and more than 100 of his supporters, in connection with a mass jail break in 2011, was taken at the end of a mass trial that was not in line with Egypt's obligations under international law."
"The Egyptian judicial authorities have the responsibility to ensure, in line with international standards, the defendant's' rights to a fair trial and proper and independent investigations," the statement reads.
“[The Death penalty is] an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity.”
Human rights group Amnesty International said that the trials were “grossly unfair” and in “complete disregard for human rights.”
Deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program Said Boumedouha said that “[Morsi’s] trials were undermined even before he set foot in the courtroom. The fact that he was held for months incommunicado without judicial oversight and that he didn’t have a lawyer to represent him during the investigations makes these trials nothing but a charade based on null and void procedures.”
“The death penalty has become the favorite tool for the Egyptian authorities to purge the political opposition. Most of those sentenced to death by courts since July 2013 have been Morsi supporters,” Boumedouha added.
“The deal seems to be: support Morsi and get sentenced to death or to years behind bars. Instead, Egypt must ensure the independence and impartiality of the justice system and bring to justice all those responsible for gross human rights violations.”
The Muslim Brotherhood's grand leader Mohamed Badie was also sentenced to death for breaking out of jail after he too had his previous death sentence for espionage lifted.
Meanwhile, 17 others were sentenced to death in the espionage case, including Khairat al Shater and Mohamed al Beltagy. Thirteen more defendants were additionally sentenced to death in absentia, including prominent Muslim scholar Yusuf al Qaradawi.
The court accused the Muslim Brotherhood of "committing acts which led to compromising the independence of the country, its unity and territorial integrity," and said "Investigations revealed the Muslim Brotherhood leaders are in close alliance with the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas."
Tuesday's ruling comes after the court consulted Egypt's Grand Mufti, the country’s most senior religious authority. Morsi, along with over 100 other defendants, was sentenced to death in May, and so the advisory opinion of the Mufti was sought.
Earlier on Tuesday the same court sentenced Morsi along with 15 others to life in prison in a separate case related to spying allegedly undertaken on behalf of the Palestinian group Hamas, Lebanese group Hezbollah, and Iran.
Since Morsi was deposed Egypt has launched a relentless crackdown on opposition which has targeted Muslim Brotherhood members, as well as activists and secularist groups, leaving hundreds dead and thousands behind bars.