CAIRO - An Egyptian court on Saturday commuted a death sentence against the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader to life in prison, in one of many trials of Islamists since their removal from power.
Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood's Supreme Guide, still faces the gallows, however, after another court in southern Egypt passed a separate death sentence over deadly riots in August 2013, almost a month after the army toppled Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
In Saturday's ruling, a Cairo court that had initially sentenced him to death for violent protests in the capital reduced the ruling to life in prison, on the recommendation of the mufti, the government's Islamic law expert. The government that took over after Morsi's overthrow cracked down on Islamists, with at least 700 pro-Morsi protesters killed in clashes with police in a single day in August 2013.
Thousands have been imprisoned, including Morsi himself, and placed on trials that resulted in death sentences for more than 200 people. The Cairo court on Saturday sentenced seven other Brotherhood leaders to life in prison, and six who were tried in absentia to death. Those sentenced to death in absentia have the right to retrial if they surrender themselves.
With much of its leadership behind bars or in exile, the Muslim Brotherhood has persisted in organising small and sometimes violent protests across the country. The government has designated the group, once the country's largest political movement, as a terrorist organisation, blaming it for militant attacks that have killed scores of policemen and soldiers. The Islamists deny involvement in the attacks, the deadliest of which have been claimed by an Al-Qaeda inspired group based in the Sinai Peninsula.
ht/se/anw Badie was charged with killing at least nine people and inciting violence that injured 21 others in clashes near a mosque in Giza in 2013. Then-armed forces chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi toppled President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July of 2013 after mass protests against his rule.
Sisi went on to become Egypt's elected president, while Brotherhood leaders and thousands of their supporters were jailed or driven underground.
Mursi, who was freely elected in 2012, is on trial on a variety of charges including inciting violence and conspiring with a foreign power, and could face the death penalty if convicted. Security forces killed hundreds of Brotherhood supporters in the streets during protests against the removal of Mursi.
Badie and 182 Muslim brotherhood supporters were sentenced to death in a mass trial last June over violence that erupted in Minya governorate which led to the killing of a police officer.
A court sentenced Badie to life in prison in July for inciting violence and blocking a major road north of Cairo during protests that followed Mursi's ouster.