The Cairo Criminal Court, headed by judge Mohamed Farid, issued a verdict on 379 defendants on Saturday in the case known as the “Rabaa sit-in dispersal,” in the first decision to be taken in the case since the 2013.
The judge confirmed death sentence to 75 defendants including senior members of the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group. The court also sentenced 47 defendants to life imprisonment, while another 23 were handed 10 years in prison.
The court also sentenced 374 people to 15 years, while 215 were sentenced to five years.
Among those 215 defendants is independent photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, known as Shawkan.
Cheerful joy overwhelmed some defendants in the courtroom cage when the judge sentenced 215 individuals to five years, meaning the possibility that some of them might be released as the majority of them have been in detention for five years.
Colleagues of Shawkan, reporters and photojournalists, have celebrated the possible release.
Lawyers told Daily News Egypt that defendants who have spent five years and are not wanted in other cases, can walk free soon after finishing all legal steps.
The court also decided to drop all legal charges against five defendants who died during in the last five years.
The defendants face charges of engaging in armed conflict with security forces, harming national security, attacking civilians, destroying public facilities, and supporting the Brotherhood, which has been labelled as a terrorist organisation.
The Rabaa dispersal case is one of the biggest post 30 June legal disputes, which incidents took place during the dispersal of the sit-in in 16 August 2013. According to official statistics, six security officers were killed that day. In March 2013, the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) said that the majority of protesters who took part in the pro-Mohamed Morsi Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in were peaceful protesters, but the organisers allowed a group of armed protesters into the sit-in without notifying the rest of the protesters of the former group’s presence.
The Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in was violently dispersed by security forces in August 2013, and hundreds were arrested, most of whom are currently on trial. The protesters were demonstrating against the ouster of Morsi.
The Brotherhood faced a violent crackdown following the military led ouster of Morsi. Many of the group’s members and leaders are facing harsh prison sentences in cases related to terrorism charges, are wanted by the regime, or were killed in clashes with security forces.
The Brotherhood has been accused by the state and public opinion of forming militant groups throughout the country, which have been charged with recent acts of violence, assassination attempts, and bombings, most of which have targeted state institutions and police forces. The group, nevertheless, has consistently rejected these accusations, arguing that “they will never abandon their peaceful protesting tactics.”