Senior Muslim Brotherhood Leaders Join 72 Others on Death Row

September 8, 2018 Updated: September 8, 2018

A religious trio in Egypt join dozens more who have been sentenced to death for participating in a 2013 sit-in that ended in hundreds of protestors dying at the hand of Egyptian security forces.

Senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders Essam al-Erian, Mohamed Beltagi, and preacher Safwat Higazi are three of 75 people given the death penalty for joining a 2013 protest.

Civil rights groups have criticized the punishment as a “mockery of justice.”

“We condemn … [the] verdict in the strongest terms,” Amnesty International said in a statement to Reuters. “The fact that not a single police officer has been brought to account … shows what a mockery of justice this trial was.”

Since becoming president of Egypt in 2014, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been blamed for cracking-down on dissent.

Death sentences have been handed down to hundreds of the president’s political opponents on charges, such as belonging to an illegal organization or planning to carry-out an attack.

Egypt still faces an Islamist insurgency on the Sinai Peninsula, and is reeling financially from years of political unrest.

The hearing at Tora prison complex, south of Cairo, ruled that several prominent Islamists would be hung, including Essam al-Erian, Mohamed Beltagi, and Safwat Higazi. Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Mohamed Badie, award-winning photographer Mahmoud Abu Zeid, and dozens more received jail sentences ranging from five to 15 years. Zeid, a 2018 United Nations press freedom prize winner, is charged with belonging to a banned group and possessing firearms.

The Egyptian government says many protesters were armed and that eight members of the security forces were killed in the 2013 incident. Authorities had initially reported the death of more than 40 police. However, rights groups like Amnesty estimate more than 800 protesters died.

Reuters contributed to this report.