Backers of Egypt's ousted President Mohamed Morsi on Saturday denounced a death sentence issued him and 121 co-defendants earlier in the day on charges of mass prison break in 2011 and spying for Palestinian faction Hamas.
Nevertheless, opponents of the ousted president and his Muslim Brotherhood movement applauded the ruling, saying it "heartened" them and "took revenge on Morsi and his movement".
Earlier on Saturday, a court sent a request to Egypt's religious authority (the grand mufti) to give its opinion before Morsi and 121 other people – out of a total of 166 people – were sentenced to death.
Morsi and other co-defendants were accused of mass prison break during the 2011 uprising that ousted then President Hosni Mubarak and espionage for Palestinian faction Hamas.
The 121 other defendants included the Muslim Brotherhood supreme leader Mohamed Badie and his deputy Khairat al-Shater, along with several other movement top leaders.
The opinion of the grand mufti is non-binding, while the ruling against the ousted president and his co-defendants is subject to appeal.
The National Alliance for the Defense of Legitimacy – Morsi's principal support bloc – denounced the verdict and called for escalating opposition to the current authorities, especially on July 3, the day on which two years ago Morsi was deposed by the army after mass protests against his one-year rule.
Renowned preacher Youssef al-Qaradawi – one of the people sentenced to death along with Morsi and the other 120 co-defendants – also criticized the verdict.
"These verdicts are valueless," al-Qaradawi said in an interview with the Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera. "They cannot be executed," he added.
He exclaimed at charges leveled against him that he was involved in incitement against Egypt.
"It is normal for people to speak against injustice," Sheikh al-Qaradawi said.
Another co-defendant, Emad Shahin, also denounced the ruling.
"I was sentenced in absentia to death," Shahin, who teaches at an American university, said. "I reiterate my total rejection of all charges leveled against me," he added.
Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mohamed Montasser, described the death sentence against Morsi and the other co-defendants as one against the "first attempt to bring democracy to Egypt".
"We will maintain our revolution," Montasser told Anadolu Agency.
Aisha, a daughter of deputy Brotherhood supreme leader Khairat al-Shater, meanwhile, said the potential death sentence issued her father demonstrated the "injustice and fascism" of Egypt's justice system.
She said her family did not recognize the trial and that this family would continue to oppose the current authorities along with other "revolutionaries who fight for freedom, dignity and justice".
Egyptian journalist Gamal Sultan, for his part, said on Twitter that the conflict in Egypt was political, not legal, in nature.
"This is why the biggest loser in Morsi's execution is al-Sisi [the Egyptian president] and his regime," Sultan said.
Nevertheless, some other people did not share this point of view.
Lawyer Tarek al-Khouli – known for his opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement from which Morsi hails – applauded the death sentence against Morsi and other co-defendants.
He said such verdicts represented the end for people who "betrayed" their country and "pushed it toward destruction".
"Egypt, which had miraculously survived the evils of those pretentious Islamists before, will prevail in its current battle against them," al-Khouli said in a statement.
Activist Mohamed Hussein, a coordinator of the anti-Brotherhood Tamarod movement, praised the death sentence.
"Today is a happy one for all Egyptians," Hussein said. "Egyptians have waited for this ruling against these traitors for long," he added.
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