An Egyptian court has upheld a death sentence in absentia against a leader of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood on charges of establishing a “terror group,” which allegedly incited violence against security forces.
The Cairo Criminal Court issued the ruling against 66-year-old preacher Wagdi Ghoneim on Sunday, after the non-binding consultative opinion of the country’s grand mufti confirmed the verdict.
On April 2, the court issued a preliminary death sentence against Turkey-based Ghoneim and announced that it was awaiting ratification of the verdict by Shawki Allam, Egypt’s grand mufti, who, according to the country’s penal code, must review all death sentences.
Ghoneim, an outspoken supporter of Morsi, however, dismissed the ruling later in the day, saying he had not been in Egypt for years.
The court also confirmed death sentences against two other people who are in detention over alleged terror charges. Five others also received life terms, 25 years in Egypt; two of the sentences were handed down in absentia.
All the Sunday verdicts can be appealed.
Last year, Egypt’s High State Security Prosecution referred the eight defendants to the Cairo Criminal Court on charges of founding an illegal group in 2003 aimed at obstructing the constitution and state institutions, assaulting citizens, and harming national unity and public order.
The Egyptian government has been cracking down on opposition since the country’s first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted in a military coup led by former army chief and current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in July 2013.
Ghoneim, who had launched a campaign against the military-led ouster of Morsi, reportedly left Egypt amid heavy post-coup crackdown.
Rights groups say the army’s clampdown on the supporters of Morsi has led to the deaths of over 1,400 people and the arrest of 22,000 others, including some 200 people who have been sentenced to death in mass trials.
Following the coup, Cairo also labeled the Muslim Brotherhood as a “terrorist organization” and Egyptian courts have sentenced hundreds of Brotherhood members to death, including Morsi himself. The Brotherhood, however, says it is a peaceful organization.
By Africafrique and agencies