Mon Apr 24, 2017 1:57PM
This file photo shows the building of Cairo Criminal Court.
This file photo shows the building of Cairo Criminal Court.

A court in Egypt has upheld death sentences for 20 people over their alleged roles in the Kerdasa massacre four years ago, which left over a dozen people dead.  

On August 14, 2013, a few hours after Egyptian security forces mounted a deadly crackdown on two sit-in camps of protesters in the capital Cairo, some 50 gunmen besieged the main police station of the town of Kerdasa, located near the northern city of Giza, for several hours, before some of them struck the complex with rocket-propelled grenades (RPG).  

The assailants then stormed the station and killed 11 people officers, including the chief of the police station, and three civilians. The next month, Egyptian security forces launched a full-scale operation on the city and arrested dozens of suspects after a gun battle. The number of detained suspects in the Kerdasa case later increased to nearly 200 people.

In late 2014, an Egyptian court issued death sentences to 188 suspects, which sparked an international outcry against the controversial verdicts. In 2015, the death penalties were reduced to 149 cases by another court, and in February 2016, the Court of Cassation accepted an appeal on the death verdicts and ordered a retrial for the defendants.

On Monday, however, the Cairo Criminal Court upheld death sentences against 20 suspects and announced that final verdicts for the rest would be delivered on June 2. The Monday rulings now await ratification by the country's grand mufti.

Egyptian soldiers and civilian reporters take cover behind an armored personnel carrier as they keep watch during an operation against gunmen in the town of Kerdasa, Egypt, on September 19, 2013. (Photo by EPA)

The Egyptian government has been cracking down on the 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.

The controversial ouster sparked many protests by supporters of Morsi, including a pair that were held at al-Nahda Square and Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in Cairo on August 13, 2013, which led to the killing of several hundreds of demonstrators by security police.

Rights groups say the army’s crackdown on the supporters of Morsi has led to the deaths of over 1,400 people and arrest of 22,000 others, including some 200 people who have been sentenced to death in mass trials.