An Egyptian criminal court handed down the death penalty to 529 Egyptian supporters of former president Mohammed Morsi on Monday. The crime: killing a police officer during a riot, following Morsi's removal from elected office. Egypt tried the Muslim Brotherhood supporters en masse, with only 150 of the accused in custody. The verdict awaits certification from the country's highest judicial office, the Grand Mufti.
The mass death sentence is the latest harsh judicial crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood, what the New York Times called the " determination of at least a part of the Egyptian judicial system to treat support for the ousted president as treason." Months after Morsi's july ouster, the country's military-led interim government declared that the former leader's Muslim Brotherhood party was a terrorist organization. The government has since charged three Al Jazeera journalists with aiding a "terrorist" group, presumably the Brotherhood, as part of a companion crackdown against members of the press seen as non-sympathetic to the new government.
Even so, Egyptian court watchers described today's mass capital punishment sentencing as "unprecedented" in the country's judicial system, the LA Times notes. Defense lawyers for the group told the press that the verdict came after just two sessions in court, during which they were not allowed to actually present their defense.
About 1,200 members of the Muslim Brotherhood face trial under the interim government. Those include the leaders of the party, including Morsi himself. Those sentenced to death today have some time to appeal, according to the BBC, as a final confirmation of their sentence isn't expected until late April. On Tuesday, a separate group of about 700 supporters of the former leader will go on trial.