A top court in Egypt has ordered the retrial of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie and three dozen other defendants sentenced earlier to death or life in prison.
Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsud, a defense lawyer, confirmed on Thursday that judges at the court overturned the convictions and ordered a new trial.
The lawyer also pointed out that “the ruling concerns all 37 defendants who are behind bars. Twelve of them including Badie had been sentenced to death” by a lower court.
Sources say several prominent rights activists and journalists are among the defendants.
They have been accused of organizing demonstrations and setting up an “operations room” for sit-in protest at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in the capital Cairo more than two years ago.
On August 14, 2013, Egyptian security forces launched violent attacks on protest camps at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in Cairo, and Nahda Square in Giza, the third largest city in Egypt.
An absolute majority of those killed were followers of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically-elected president who was ousted on July 3 the same year in a military coup led by then head of the armed forces and current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Human rights groups said that over 815 people were killed at Rabaa Square, whereas the Egyptian Health Ministry put the death toll at 638.
The New York- based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the massacre was one of the world’s largest in a single day in recent history.
The group has accused Egyptian security forces of using disproportionate force, killing many unarmed protesters. The HRW has said that the massacre “probably amounted to crimes against humanity.”
No policemen or security personnel have yet faced trial in connection with the deaths.
The UK-based Amnesty International, among other rights groups, has also denounced the mass trials and the heavy-handed measures taken by the Egyptian government against protesters and Morsi’s supporters.
The United Nations has also slammed the trials as unprecedented in recent history.
The clampdown on Brotherhood supporters has reportedly left over 1,400 people dead over the past two years.
Leading local and international rights organizations say nearly 300 political prisoners have died in Egyptian detention facilities since the ouster of Morsi.