The Cairo Criminal Court sentenced hunger striking Mohamed Soltan and 36 defendants to life in prison, and ratified the death sentences against 14 others in the Muslim Brotherhood’s “Operations Room” case.
Judge Nagy Shehata issued the rulings Saturday before the arrival of the detainees to the session, according to the Soltan family spokesperson, Sara Mohamed.
“The rulings are shocking,” said defence lawyer Taher Abu El-Nasr, confirming the sentences will be appealed.
The defendants are mainly charged with “spreading lies through the operations room”, said lawyer Halim Henish.
Twelve journalists and media personnel are being tried in the same case, among which are Abdullah Al-Fakharany and Samhy Mostafa, who were both handed a life sentence.
Spokesperson for the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, Gehad El-Haddad, also sentenced to life imprisonment, is accused of “having interviews in English with foreign channels and newspapers about the political situation in the country”.
“My brother received a life sentence because of his engagement with the media,” said Abdullah El-Haddad, the Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson in London.
“There wasn’t any ‘operations room’,” he said. “There were a group of young Egyptian anti-coup activists trying to transmit news of Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in to the world through engaging with the media.”
Shehata, widely criticised for handing out severe sentences with little supporting evidence, had sentenced Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie and 13 other convicts to death on 16 March. Those who were handed death sentences also include Mahmoud Abdullah Ghazala, Hossam Abu Bakr, Omar Malik and Salah Soltan, who is Mohamed’s father.
“Shehata is just another junta’s puppet. The real murderer is [President Abdel Fattah] Al-Sisi who is using the Egyptian judiciary as an oppression tool to settle political scores,” Abdullah said. Al-Sisi’s regime is targeting anyone who is considered a threat against his authoritarian regime, “whether a journalist who is trying to reveal the truth or a high school student who is peacefully protesting on the streets”, he stated.
Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat had referred the detainees to the Criminal Court in February 2014 for “forming an operations room to direct the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood to defy the government during the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in dispersal, and to spread chaos in the country”. The defendants have been standing trial since April 2014.
Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson Wafaa Al-Banna further reiterated there was never an “operations room”.
“It was a peaceful sit-in calling for freedom,” Al-Banna previously told Daily News Egypt.
According to the prosecution, the room was formed with the aim of making Egypt appear unable to govern in the eyes of the international community, to be replaced with a government formed by the Muslim Brotherhood.
The alleged operations room was relocated after the dispersal of sit-ins by supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi at Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Nahda squares on 14 August, 2013.
The Muslim Brotherhood has been accused of fabricating pictures and scenes that imply fatalities and injuries among demonstrators. They were also accused of preparing statements in foreign languages and publishing them outside Egypt to imply that security forces used excessive force and violated human rights.
The group would have monitored police institutions, which they intended to attack, and had formed several media centres to support their plot, the prosecution said, among which are RASSD and Ikhwan Online.
When searching the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters, police had found foreign currencies among the local, with papers concerning the armed forces and police, the prosecution added.