Egypt court defers final verdict on Morsi death sentence

Cairo, June 2 (IANS) An Egyptian court on Tuesday postponed until June 16 a final verdict on the death sentence handed down last month to ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in a jailbreak case in 2011.

The presiding judge of Cairo Criminal Court said he received on Tuesday morning the opinion of the Grand Mufti, the country’s highest Islamic official who gives the religious judgment of all preliminary death sentences, Xinhua news agency reported.

However, he did not spell out the details of the Mufti’s recommendations.

The judge said the court needed to discuss the opinion before issuing a final ruling on June 16.

The Mufti’s opinion is not obligatory to the court as it is usually considered a formality.

On May 16, the same court issued preliminary death sentences against Morsi and 105 other defendants in the case publicly known as the “Wadi al-Natron jailbreak”.

The verdicts were referred to the Grand Mufti for his opinion.

Morsi is accused of escaping from prison with the help of domestic and foreign militants during the 2011 uprising that toppled his predecessor Hosni Mubarak.

Some 130 other defendants, who are affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood and members of the Palestinian Hamas movement and the Lebanese Shia Hezbollah group, stand trial in the same case.

They are accused of breaking into prisons and kidnapping and killing police officers.

In addition to the death sentence, Morsi was also sentenced in April by the Cairo Criminal Court to 20 years in jail over ordering the arrest and torture of protesters in 2012.

Also in Tuesday’s session, the court ordered postponement of final verdict on death sentences against 16 Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s deputy chief Khairat al-Shater, over espionage charges.

The defendants are accused of conspiring with foreign powers, including the Hamas movement, Hezbollah group and Iran’s National Guard to destabilise Egypt.

Morsi faces charges in the espionage case, but he was not among the defendants who received death penalties last month.

Morsi was ousted by the army in July 2013 after mass protests against his one-year rule. Since then, he has been facing a number of charges including inciting violence, conspiring with foreign powers and killing protesters, some of which carry the death penalty.

Egyptian authorities designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization last year.

A number of its leaders, including its supreme guide Mohammed Badie, were sentenced to death. However, the sentences have not been carried out and can be appealed.

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