An Egyptian criminal court has referred the cases of 75 people, including senior outlawed Muslim Brotherhood figures, who have already received death sentences over allegedly committing security-related offences to the country’s top religious authority for final consultation.
The people are among 739 defendants in total, including Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie, who are accused of taking part in an illegal protest and being involved in alleged murders during a sit-in held at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in the capital Cairo in August 2013 in support of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.
The peaceful protest ended in the death of some 600 Brotherhood supporters and dozens of police officers when security forces violently dispersed the crowd. The accused face a range of sentences, including execution and life in prison.
The court announced the news on Saturday, stating that it had set September 8 as the date of the final verdict for all the defendants involved.
Grand Mufti Shawqi Allamis is normally expected to announce his non-binding opinion in cases of capital punishment, according to Egypt's penal code. Due to the non-binding nature of the mufti’s decision, the defendants hold the right to appeal the verdict at Egypt's Court of Cassation.
Among the 75 cases referred to the Grand Mufti on Saturday are those of leading Brotherhood members such as Essam El-Erian, Mohamed Beltagy and Wagdy Ghoneim.
According to the court, the defendants are accused of attacking citizens, resisting authorities, destroying public property, and possessing firearms and Molotov cocktails.
Rights groups in Egypt and across the world have recorded cases of irregularities in the trials of political prisoners in the country. They say the army’s clampdown on the supporters of Morsi has led to the death of some 1,500 people and the arrest of 22,000 others, including 200 people who have been sentenced to death in mass trials.
The administration of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has outlawed the Brotherhood organization, which is Egypt’s oldest opposition movement. The group operated under strict measures during the rule of longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak, who was himself removed from power following an uprising in 2011.
Morsi, the Brotherhood's leader, had been sentenced to death on charges of corruption, escaping from prison and inciting violence before the Court of Cassation overturned that ruling in November last year and ordered a retrial.