Egypt gives leading Islamists 20-year sentences

AP News
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Posted: Sep 09, 2014 10:37 AM

CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian criminal court sentenced a top Muslim Brotherhood member and a prominent Islamist preacher to 20 years in prison Tuesday after finding them guilty of abducting and torturing two police officers last summer and leading a terrorist organization, the country's official news agency reported.

Mohamed el-Beltagy, a leading member of the Brotherhood and secretary-general of its political party, the Freedom and Justice Party, was convicted alongside ultraconservative cleric Safwat Higazy on charges of kidnapping, detaining and torturing police officers in a field hospital during last summer's sit-in by supporters of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Morsi was ousted in July 2013 following mass protests against him.

The two also were convicted of leading a terrorist organization founded to "attack the freedoms of civilians and harm national unity and society's well-being," the state news agency said. The government had declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization soon after Morsi's ouster, accusing it of waging a violent campaign against the government. The group denied the allegation.

Two doctors present during the Rabaa sit-in also were sentenced to five years in prison.

Lawyer Mohammed el-Damaty, who represented el-Beltagy during the trial, said he quit the trial in recent weeks, accusing judges of bias against the Brotherhood. El-Damaty alleged the lead judge dismissed crucial evidence favoring the defendants.

Judges don't comment publicly on their rulings in Egypt. A new defense team took up the case before the verdict.

The Egyptian government has cracked down on the Brotherhood, killing hundreds of its members, arresting thousands more and carrying out mass trials following the July 3 military overthrow of Morsi.