The Cairo Criminal Court referred on Saturday Egypt’s ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi to the Grand Mufti, to consider handing him the death sentence for escaping from the Wadi al-Natroun prison to October 18.
Morsi and 128 other defendants are accused of collaborating with international bodies, the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah, to escape prison during the January 2011 uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.
The court also referred 105 other defendants to the Grand Mufti to consider handing them the death sentence. They include Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, Brotherhood leaders Rashad Bayoumi, Saad al-Katatny and Essam El-Erian.
The court will issue its final decision in the case on June 2, after getting the Grand Mufti's recommendation. The Mufti's opinions are not legally binding, yet it is customary to the court to adopt them.
Morsi and the other defendants were charged with murder and attempted murder of policemen, torching government buildings, breaking into prison and helping prisoners escape. Twenty-seven defendants are tried in session; the rest are being tried in absentia.
In an appearance in court in January, Morsi said, "I personally slept, and the brothers woke me up and told me that … the prison was open and there is no one else but the Muslim Brotherhood and if you stay you will die."
He added that "for four hours, people kept breaking the door. We did not know if they were inmates or families. After the door was broken, we were alone in the prison."
One of the defendants, Ibrahim al-Darawi, covered his mouth with a white gag with the word ‘journalist’ written on it as he awaited the verdict on Saturday. Darawi worked as journalist and director of a Cairo-based research centre specialised in Palestinian affairs.
Darawi is among the defendants awaiting a verdict on the June 2 session.
Morsi, who climbed to power becoming Egypt's president in June 2012, was eventually ousted after a year at the hands of the military, following mass protests against his rule.
He has since been accused of several charges and stood as defendant in various trials.
He remains being tried for insulting the judiciary, as well as a separate espionage case.
A Cairo court sentenced Mursi last month to 20 years of maximum security prison for charges of show of force and detention associated with physical torture during deadly protests in 2012. He was nevertheless acquitted of murder charges.
Since Morsi's ouster in July, Muslim Brotherhood leaders and prominent figures have often found themselves behind bars and facing courts.
Badie has been served two death sentences before today, while he remains facing trial in other court cases. Badie appeared in a red jumpsuit on Saturday, alongside two other defendants; the attire of those sentenced to death.
Egypt listed the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation in December 2013 and insists it is behind the wave of militancy which has targeted security personnel since July 2013. The Brotherhood continuously denies the accusations.
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