CAIRO : Egypt's ex-president Mohamed Morsi faces being sentenced to death Tuesday on charges of inciting the killing of protestors in the first verdict against him nearly two years after his fall from power.

He also faces the death penalty in two other trials, including one in which he is accused of spying for foreign powers, and escaping from prison during the 2011 anti-Mubarak revolt. Separate verdicts in those two cases are due on May 16.

A death sentence on Tuesday against Egypt's first freely elected president cannot be ruled out, experts say, especially since judges have already passed harsh verdicts against leaders of his blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood.  Morsi was toppled by the then army chief - and now president - Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on July 3, 2013 after mass street protests against his year-long rule.

The new authorities then launched a sweeping crackdown on his supporters in which more than 1,400 people were killed and thousands jailed. Hundreds have been sentenced to death after speedy mass trials which the United Nations called ‘unprecedented in recent history’. The authorities have also targeted secular and liberal activists who spearheaded the 2011 uprising against long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak, Morsi's predecessor.

In November, a court dropped murder charges against Mubarak in his own trial over the deaths of hundreds of protesters in 2011. Sisi's regime is widely popular among Egyptians tired of more than four years of political turmoil, but rights groups say it is more repressive than under Mubarak.

Tuesday's verdict involves a case in which Morsi and 14 other defendants, seven of whom are on the run, are charged with the killing of three protesters and torturing several more during clashes in front of the presidential palace on December 5, 2012. The protesters were demonstrating against a Morsi decree that put him above judicial review when they clashed with his supporters.

Defence lawyers say there is no proof Morsi incited the clashes, and that most of those killed were Brotherhood members. Even if Morsi escapes the death penalty , he could still face life in jail. ‘Justice is highly politicised and verdicts are rarely based on objective elements,’ Karim Bitar from the Paris-based Institute of International and Strategic Relations told AFP.

Morsi's supporters were the target of a government ‘witch-hunt’, he added. If a death sentence is passed, it is unlikely to be carried out, said H A Hellyer of the Washington-based Brookings Centre for Middle East Policy. ‘The execution of Morsi would represent an escalation by the Egyptian authorities that they do not appear willing to engage in,’ said Hellyer.

‘Internationally, it will be received badly that an elected president overthrown via a military incursion into politics, even if that military is popular, is then dealt a harsh judicial sentence.’ The verdict is also open to appeal. A harsh sentence will nevertheless be a nail in the coffin of the Brotherhood, as Sisi has vowed to ‘eradicate’ the 85-year-old movement that staged major electoral gains between Mubarak's fall and Morsi's presidential victory in May 2012.

Almost all of its leaders face harsh sentences, and in December 2013 the movement was designated a ‘terrorist group,’ with the authorities blaming it for near daily attacks on the security forces. In a country where the army has been in power for decades, Sisi's May 2014 presidential victory crushed hopes raised since the popular anti-Mubarak revolt of a civilian democracy.

The extent of anti-Brotherhood repression ‘is unprecedented in the history of the Brotherhood and could push its supporters to extremism’, said Mustapha Kamel al-Sayyid, professor of political science at Cairo University. Jihadists, mainly the Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State group, have claimed attacks on security forces in retaliation for the crackdown on Morsi supporters. The Brotherhood itself denies resorting to violence. Moreover, an Egyptian court Sunday sentenced 11 football fans to death after a retrial over a 2012 stadium riot in the canal city of Port Said that left 74 people dead. An appeals court had ordered the retrial of 73 defendants in February last year after rejecting a lower court verdict sentencing 21 people to death for being involved in the incident.

The riot erupted in February 2012 when fans of home team Al-Masry and Cairo's Al-Ahly clashed after a premier league match between the two clubs. Sunday's death sentences against 11 football fans have been referred to Egypt's grand mufti. The court will make a final decision on their fates, as well as those of the other defendants, on May 30. The 73 defendants include nine police officers and three officials from Al-Masry club, while the rest were fans of Al-Masry club.

Two of those sentenced to death are on the run. None of the families of the victims or of the defendants attended Sunday's court session, which was held in Cairo for security reasons. Sunday's verdict can be appealed. The 2012 clashes in the Port Said stadium sparked days of violent protests in Cairo, in which another 16 people were killed in fighting with security forces.

A year later, dozens of people also died in the canal city during clashes that erupted after the lower court handed down the 21 death sentences. The Port Said riots were the deadliest sport-related riots in Egypt, where football fans regularly clash against rival supporters or with security forces. The authorities reacted by imposing a ban on fans attending premier league matches and held the games behind closed doors. But on February 8, at least 19 people died in a stampede after police fired tear gas at fans trying to force their way into a Cairo stadium for a premier league match that was open to the public.

Television footage showed crowds squeezed inside a narrow metal enclosure, jostling to enter the stadium when the stampede erupted as police fired tear gas.

The police reject the accusations and blame the unrest on Islamists. Sixteen suspects accused of clashing with police on that day have been arrested and referred to trial. Since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, his supporters have been the target of a brutal government crackdown overseen by his successor President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Egypt's hard-core football fans, the ‘ultras’, have often clashed with police, including in political unrest that has seen two presidents toppled since 2011.

The ‘ultras’ were at the forefront of protests against long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak, who stepped down in early 2011 after an 18-day uprising against his rule. That uprising was essentially against the police, who were regularly accused of torturing detainees and of being involved in extra-judicial executions.