CAIRO - Egypt’s top court on Thursday ordered a retrial of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie, overturning a death sentence for Islamist protest violence, a judicial official and a lawyer said.
Thirty-six co-defendants who were condemned to death or life in prison by a lower court will be retried along with Badie, who has also been sentenced to death in a different case.
They had been found guilty of plotting unrest from an “operations room” in a Cairo protest camp in the months after the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.
The convictions were appealed before the Court of Cassation, which on Thursday overturned them and ordered a retrial. “The ruling concerns all 37 defendants who are behind bars. Twelve of them including Badie had been sentenced to death” by the lower court, defence lawyer Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsud told AFP.
Badie’s co-defendants include US-Egyptian citizen Mohamed Soltan, who had been sentenced to life in prison.
Soltan was deported in May under a presidential decree stipulating that foreigners convicted in Egypt can be sent back to their home countries.
The lower court had accused the group of organising unrest and protests backing Morsi, a senior Brotherhood figure who was himself sentenced to death in a separate case.
The sprawling Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp in Cairo was dispersed by police on August 14, 2013 in a 12-hour operation that left hundreds of pro-Morsi protesters and about 10 policemen dead. The crackdown followed weeks of failed European and US-brokered negotiations with the Brotherhood, which was demanding Morsi’s return to office.
The Islamist was the country’s first freely elected president, but he ruled for only a year before the army toppled him, spurred by massive protests demanding his resignation.
The Brotherhood was later declared a “terrorist organisation” by Egypt.
Badie is facing several trials, and has been sentenced to death in a separate case along with Morsi for plotting jailbreaks and attacks on police during the country’s 2011 uprising that ousted ex-president Hosni Mubarak. The Brotherhood chief has also been handed life sentences - each amounting to 25 years in prison - in five other cases.
Meanwhile, Egypt wrapped up Wednesday a legislative election that spanned over six weeks but failed to mobilise a high turnout for a parliament expected to firmly back President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s iron-fisted policies.
The election was marred by apathy in the absence of any opposition after Sisi crushed all forms of dissent since ousting his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.
Polling in a run-off for the second phase of voting in 13 of the country’s 27 provinces closed at 9:00 pm (0700 GMT), bringing an end to a weeks-long marathon electoral process.
The first stage of the election in 14 provinces was held on October 18 and 19 and saw a turnout of only 26.6 percent. A run-off held days later produced an even lower turnout of 21.7 percent.
The second phase held on November 22-23 in the remaining 13 provinces saw a marginally higher turnout of 29.9 percent, but failed to produce winners with a clear majority in most constituencies.
A run-off was then held on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the results to be announced by Friday, the High Electoral Commission said on its website.
The commission has previously said the parliament would be in place “before the end of the year”.
Experts say the latest run-off vote is also expected to see a turnout similar to that in the first stage.
The low turnout is in contrast to the high voter participation registered in the previous legislative election held between November 2011 and January 2012, months after a popular uprising toppled longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak.
That election saw Morsi’s Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement emerging as a dominant group.
But the legislature formed after that vote was dissolved in June 2012, just days before Morsi became Egypt’s first freely elected president.
Experts say the new 596-member parliament is expected to have lawmakers firmly backing Sisi.
Morsi was toppled by then army chief Sisi after mass street protests against his sole year in office.
An ensuing crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood has left hundreds dead and tens of thousands imprisoned.
Morsi and several leaders of the Brotherhood have been sentenced to death after speedy mass trials, which the United Nations denounced as “unprecedented in recent history”.
While the Brotherhood has been crushed and banned from contesting candidates after it was blacklisted as a “terrorist group”, many secular and leftist leaders who led the 2011 uprising against Mubarak have also been jailed.
Several secular and leftist groups either boycotted this year’s vote or were poorly represented.
The new parliament will include 28 presidential appointees, with the rest elected under a complex system of independent candidates and party lists.
Experts say an overwhelming majority of elected lawmakers are firm supporters of Sisi, who enjoys widespread backing among many Egyptians tired of years of political turmoil since the uprising.
All the 120 seats contested on party lists have been swept by a pro-Sisi coalition “For Love of Egypt”, which is made up of former members of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party.