An Egyptian court has upheld the death penalty for 20 people over their alleged roles in killing of 13 policemen in the violence that followed the military’s ousting of former president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, while sentencing many others to hefty jail terms.
The Cairo Criminal Court also on Sunday handed life sentences to 80 defendants, 15-year terms to 35 defendants in a case which has been widely known as the “Kerdasa incident.”
It also ordered a minor to be imprisoned for 10 years, and acquitted 21 other defendants in the controversial case. According to the court officials, the convicted can appeal the verdict before the Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest criminal and civil court.
“Some committed murder themselves, others stole, or burned, some guarded the road so the assailants could commit their crimes, and some blocked the roads to prevent help from coming, some incited citizens against the military and police using mosque speakers and microphones on the streets. If it were not for all of that, these crimes would not have been committed,” said Judge Mohammad Sherine Fahmy before reading out the verdict.
Back in April 24, the court upheld a preliminary death penalty for the 20 men and said that the verdicts were pending the consultative opinion of the country’s Grand Mufti Shawki Allam, who must review all death sentences according to the country’s penal code.
The grand mufti, whose opinion is legally required but not binding, has already approved the verdicts.
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.
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.