CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie and several other prominent Islamists were sentenced to life in prison on Saturday for murder and inciting violence, judicial sources said, part of an ongoing crackdown on the outlawed group.
Badie has faced numerous trials and has accumulated two death sentences and five sentences to life in prison in separate cases, which still may be appealed.
Saturday’s sentencing related to an attack on a police station in the city of Port Said in 2013 in which five people were killed. The attack was part of a wave of violence that swept across Egypt after the army removed elected Islamist president Mohamed Mursi from power in July 2013 following mass protests against his rule.
Senior Brotherhood leader Mohamed El-Beltagy, Islamist cleric Safwat Hegazy, and 16 others were also sentenced to life in prison, 28 to ten years in prison and 68 acquitted. Another 76 people were given life sentences in absentia.
Charges ranged from murder and inciting violence to stealing weapons and destruction of public and private property.
After hearing their sentences, the defendants defiantly flashed the four-finger Rabaa sign synonymous with the Brotherhood’s 2013 sit-ins and chanted “down with military rule” from inside a cage in the courtroom.
Since deposing Mursi, the authorities have held mass trials for thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters, with hundreds receiving death sentences or lengthy prison terms. Mursi was sentenced to death in June over a mass jail break in 2011.
This has drawn criticism from activists and rights groups at home and abroad. The Egyptian government says the judiciary is independent and that it never intervenes in its work.
The government deems the Brotherhood a terrorist group. The Brotherhood, Egypt’s oldest opposition movement dating back decades, says it remains committed to peaceful activism.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approved an anti-terrorism law this month that sets up special courts. Human rights groups say the law uses security threats as a pretext to curtail political freedoms won in a 2011 uprising.
Reporting by Haitham Ahmed and Ali Abdelaty; Writing by Eric Knecht; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky