Relatives of Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters of
ousted President Mohamed Mursi react after hearing the
sentence handed to Mohamed Badie and other Brotherhood
supporters in front of the court in Minya, south of Cairo.
REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
An Egyptian court has sentenced the leader of the
outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and 682 supporters to death,
intensifying a crackdown on the movement that could trigger
protests and political violence ahead of an election next
The Brotherhood, in a statement issued in London, described
the ruling as chilling and said it would "continue to use all
peaceful means to end military rule".
In another case signaling growing intolerance of dissent by
military-backed authorities, a pro-democracy movement that
helped ignite the uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni
Mubarak in 2011 was banned by court order, judicial sources
The death sentence passed on Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood's
general guide, will infuriate members of the group, which has
been the target of raids, arrests and bans since the army
forced President Mohamed Mursi from power in July.
The United States and the United Nations expressed alarm over
Some Brotherhood members fear pressure from security forces
and the courts could drive some young members to violence
against the movement's old enemy, the Egyptian state.
Badie, considered a conservative hardliner, was charged with
crimes including inciting violence that followed the army
overthrow of Mursi, who is also on trial on an array of
The slight, 70-year-old veterinary professor stood trial in
Cairo in a separate case hours after the sentence was
"If they executed me one thousand times I will not retreat
from the right path," Badie was quoted as saying by lawyer
Osama Mursi, who attended one of his trials in Cairo.
The comments were published on the Facebook page of Osama
Mursi, son of the Brotherhood leader ousted as president.
Two security officials told Reuters that Badie appeared
relaxed and joked, asking other Brotherhood members to buy
him the red outfit that prisoners condemned to death wear.
Tough measures against the Brotherhood suggest the
authorities still see it as a major threat, even though most
of its leaders and thousands of members are behind bars.
Authorities are well aware that the movement founded in 1928
has survived repression under successive Egyptian autocrats.
The White House said it was "deeply troubled" by the ruling.
"Today's verdict, like the one last month, defies even the
most basic standards of international justice," it said in a
statement. Secretary of State John Kerry would raise U.S.
concerns in a meeting with the Egyptian foreign minister on
Tuesday, Kerry's spokeswoman said.
The Obama administration said last week that it would partly
resume military aid to Egypt, six months after cutting off
the assistance in the wake of Mursi's ouster. The
administration is delivering 10 Apache helicopters to Cairo
and has notified Congress of its intention to send $650
million in aid for weapons systems used for border security,
counterterrorism, anti-smuggling and non-proliferation.
The Brotherhood, believed to have about 1 million supporters
in the nation of 85 million, has vowed to topple the
government through protests.
Reacting to what it called the "chilling" court ruling, the
Brotherhood said the world can no longer afford to stay
"The Muslim Brotherhood reaffirms it will continue to fight
relentlessly for freedom and democracy in Egypt, and continue
to use all peaceful means to end military rule and achieve
justice for the Egyptian people," the group's London office
said in an emailed statement.
In a separate case, a court affirmed death sentences on 37
others. The rulings were part of a final judgment on 529
Muslim Brotherhood supporters condemned last month. The
remaining defendants were jailed for life, judicial sources
Death sentence recommendations in the case involving Badie
will be passed on to Egypt's Mufti, the highest religious
authority. His opinion can be ignored by the court. The
rulings can be appealed. Many defendants are on the run.
Mass trials in the biggest Arab state have reinforced fears
among human rights groups that the government and
anti-Islamist judges are using all levers of power to crush
"The decisions are possibly the largest possible death
sentences in recent world history. While they're exceptional
in scale, they're certainly not exceptional in kind," said
Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director for Middle East and
North Africa at Human Rights Watch.
"It seems that these sentences are aimed at striking fear and
terror into the hearts of those who oppose the interim
In an early reaction from a Western government, Swedish
Foreign Minister Carl Bildt wrote on Twitter that the mass
trials were an "outrage". "The world must and will react!"
Egypt's ties with the United States - source of $1.5 billion
in annual aid, most of it to the Egyptian military - have
been strained in the three years since Mubarak was
Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy is on a visit to the United
States he says will "redirect relations".
Washington froze some of its military aid in October after
Mursi's overthrow and the violent crackdown on his
Last week, Washington promised 10 attack helicopters to aid a
fight against Islamist militants in the Sinai Peninsula.
The political turmoil that has gripped Egypt and an Islamist
insurgency based in the Sinai have hammered the economy,
which grew by a meagre 2.1 percent last year.
"In a month, Egypt sentences more people to death than the
rest of the world combined. It is not the kind of news to
rekindle confidence," Angus Blair, chairman of business and
economic forecasting think-tank Signet, wrote on Twitter.
PRO-DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT BANNED
As word spread of the death sentences, relatives screamed and
cried outside the court in the town of Minya.
"This is a corrupt government. This is a failed regime. We
have no real police. We have no real state," said Sabah
Hassan, whose son was sentenced to death.
Others collapsed on the street as soldiers with AK-47 assault
rifles standing on an armoured vehicle looked on.
Relatives blamed Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the general who
deposed Mursi. The former head of military intelligence under
Mubarak is expected to easily win presidential elections on
May 26-27 in a country long ruled by men from the military,
Mursi's time in office representing the rare exception.
"Sisi is ruling like a king" and "May God punish you for what
you did" some people chanted.
Authorities have extended a crackdown to secular activists.
A ruling on Monday banning the activities of the April 6
movement follows the imprisonment of three of its leading
members last year on charges of protesting illegally. Charges
against April 6 included "damaging the image of the state".