The Port Said Criminal Court sentenced Saturday former Muslim Brotherhood supreme guide Mohamed Badie as well as 18 other defendants to life imprisonment on charges of breaking into Al-Arab police station.
The remaining defendants include former secretary-general of the Freedom and Justice Party Mohamed El-Beltagy, preacher Safwat Hegazy, and high profile members of the banned group.
The court also sentenced 28 defendants to 10 years in prison, and acquitted 68 others.
The case was referred to court by late prosecutor general Hisham Barakat, accusing the defendants of breaking into the police station, attempting to murder police officers and steal their weapons, the attempted killing of civilians, attacking public property, and incitement to threaten public order through a large public assembly.
The session was held at the heavily guarded Police Institute of Tora in Cairo. Following the announcement of the verdict, local media reported that the defendants chanted against the police and the army.
A spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood told Daily News Egypt that the case is “a joke”, adding that “many of the defendants were not even in the governorate during the clashes”. The spokesperson argued that the defendants were abroad, and that the eyewitnesses “did not witness anything, and the forensics said that the bullets were from the police’s side”.
“Yet this is another example that the Egyptian judiciary is biased and politicised, ignoring evidence and only trusting the narrative of the interior ministry,” the spokesperson added.
Lawyers previously pled not guilty for 50 of the accused, but blamed Badie, El-Beltagy and Hegazy of inciting others to commit violent acts. The defence also claimed that prosecution investigations were flawed, in addition to the arrest and search procedures of the defendants.
The case dates back to 16 November 2013, as part of the post-Rabaa Al-Adaweya dispersal violence. Protests and mass demonstrations passed close to the Al-Arab Police Station, leading to clashes. The official narrative accuses the protesters of storming the police station deliberately, while the Muslim Brotherhood say the soldiers and officers in the police station fired at the unarmed protesters, killing six and injuring tens of others.
Tens of cases looking into the post-Rabaa violence have been referred to Egyptian courts, where hundreds of defendants faced charges of sabotage, rioting, and murder. The Muslim Brotherhood rejects these trials in general, arguing they are part of the “coup regime’s measures to oppress the revolution”. Conversely, the Egyptian government defends these measures, as “defending the Egyptian state form a planned plot”.
On social media, anti-government users have launched solidarity hashtags commenting on the trial, accusing the police and demanding the release of the defendants.
In a former trial session, eye-witnesses said that the anti-government protests did not pass by the police station in the first place, and said the protest was peaceful.
Also, during the sessions, Amina Salem, a forensic doctor who supervised the autopsy of the deceased’s bodies, said that the found bullets were from weapons that belong to the security forces.
Al-Arab police station was previously stormed into during the 25 January Revolution. Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood usually circulate videos of soldiers inside an Armed Personnel Carrier firing at protesters in front of the mentioned police station.
Badie is a defendant in other cases related to murder, and attacking public institutions in different cities after the violent dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-ins. He has already received a number of death and life sentences, and he is also facing trial for leading an “armed sit-in” in Rabaa Al-Adaweya Square, where hundreds of Morsi supporters were killed.
Since the military-led ouster of Morsi, a severe security crackdown was launched targeting members of various Islamist movements. Protests have been faced with a heavy response from security forces, leaving hundreds killed, while parties and charity groups affiliated with Islamist entities were shut down.
The Muslim Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organisation on 25 December 2013, although it was originally outlawed in September 2013. In addition, the assets of Brotherhood members and other prominent Islamists were frozen on the orders Hisham Barakat. The procedure began in July 2013, immediately following the ouster of Morsi.