Judge, lawyers rule out death sentence against Morsi

Verdicts are due on Saturday in the espionage and jailbreak cases brought against of the ousted Muslim Brotherhood president

A Cairo criminal court set to rule on Saturday in the espionage and jailbreak trials of deposed president Mohamed Morsi will likely hand out jail terms to some defendants and exonerate others, a judge has said, ruling out death sentences against the accused.

Judge Moataz Khafagy, head of a Cairo criminal appeals court, said that the court is not expected to adjourn the cases either, as it has had months for deliberation.

Khafagy as well as lawyers, including those of the defendants, said death sentences were not very likely since the bench had not referred the cases to the Grand Mufti, the country’s top religious authority who reviews all death penalty cases but whose rulings are not binding.

“Normally a court refers sentences to the [Grand] Mufti then sets a date for the verdict, which did not happen in these two cases,” he said.

Morsi and 35 others are charged with conspiring with foreign powers — including the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards — to destabilise Egypt.

In another case, the ex-president, along with 130 co-defendants, is accused of breaking out of jail. The case is rooted in the escape of more than 20,000 inmates from Egyptian prisons during the 2011 uprising, including Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood members.

Verdicts in both cases are due on Saturday, May 16.

Presiding judge over both the espionage and jailbreak cases, Shaaban El-Shamy, said on Thursday that the court had looked at over 30,000 papers as evidence over the span of 26 months since the trials began.

Shaheen said that the defendants have since received fair treatment, with the court enforcing international trial regulations, despite some of them — namely Morsi — refusing to acknowledge its legitimacy.

In the first verdict against him in a third case, Morsi was sentenced in April to 20 years in prison, as he was convicted of inciting violence, and ordering the arrest and torture of demonstrators during 2012 clashes while he was in office. The ruling was denounced by Amnesty International as “travesty of justice”.

Morsi, who came to power following the 2011 ouster of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak, was himself toppled after a year in office on the back of massive street protests.

His Muslim Brotherhood group has been banned as a terrorist organisation and targeted in a sustained police crackdown that has seen thousands landed in jail.