CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian court on Wednesday ordered the retrial of 36 supporters of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood who were sentenced to death in a mass trial last year that included the group’s leader, judicial sources said.
The 36 were among 183 sentenced to death by a criminal court in the southern Minya province last June. The other defendants, including the Brotherhood’s General Guide Mohamed Badie, were tried in absentia. The court gave no reason for the retrial.
Tough sentences against hundreds of Brotherhood supporters since the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in 2013 have drawn criticism from rights groups.
Also on Wednesday, security sources said the army killed 17 suspected Islamist militants in northern Sinai. Hundreds of army and police officers have been killed by militants in the Sinai Peninsula since Mursi’s ouster.
Badie and the other defendants were charged in connection with violence near Minya in August 2013 following Mursi’s ouster a month earlier. One police officer was killed in the violence.
The Brotherhood leader was under arrest in Cairo during the trial and was not transferred to the Minya court for security reasons. He is serving a life sentence in a Cairo jail in a separate case.
The Brotherhood has faced the toughest crackdown in its history since Mursi’s removal, with hundreds killed and thousands arrested. Authorities have also jailed liberal activists on charges of protesting without police permission.
Critics accuse President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of reinstating authoritarian rule in Egypt and rolling back freedoms won in the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Sisi says he is committed to democracy.
Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad, Omar Fahmy and Yousri Mohamed; Editing by Michael Georgy and Tom Heneghan