Egypt's former President Morsi sentenced to death
Egypt's military government sentenced former President Mohammed Morsi to death for his role in a mass prison break in 2011 during which 34 Brotherhood members escaped. The court accused Morsi of conspiring with foreign terrorists, including members of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood offshoot in Gaza. The prison break took place during the uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak.
In addition to Morsi, more than 100 other Brotherhood members were sentenced to death as well. Hundreds more Muslim Brotherhood members in Egypt have also been sentenced to death, although it is thought that only one death sentence has been carried out so far.
The sentences raise the question of why Egypt is making the same mistake they made in the 1970's when President Mubarak cracked down on the group, making martyrs of some of them, only to see them come back in the 2000's stronger than ever.
Morsi, who escaped from Wadi Natroun prison in January 2011, was accused of colluding with foreign militants in a plot to free Islamists during the mass prison breaks.
Many of his 104 co-defendants were Palestinians accused of being members of militant group Hamas, and were charged in absentia.
The court also issued rulings on another case, sentencing 16 Muslim Brotherhood members, including deputy leader Khairat al-Shater, to death on spying charges.
Morsi, who also faces espionage charges, will be issued a verdict in that case at a later date.
Hundreds of people have been sentenced to death in a crackdown on the Brotherhood following Morsi's removal in 2013.
However, it is thought that only one such death sentence has been carried out so far.
All death sentences must first be sent to the grand mufti, Egypt's highest religious authority, for his non-binding opinion on whether they should stand.
Convictions are still open to appeal, even if the grand mufti gives his approval.
Morsi's supporters have condemned the cases against him as a political show trial.
Amr Darrag, a former minister in Morsi's government, described Saturday as "one of the darkest days" in Egypt's history.
"These latest charges are another deeply disturbing attempt to permanently erase democracy and the democratic process in Egypt," he said in a statement.
Even if he escapes the firing squad on these charges, Morsi has other charges pending against him that could easily result in his execution. You would think that if the Egyptian government wanted to get rid of him, they would simply take this conviction and execute him. Instead, it appears the government believes it can claim legitimacy if they "prove" Morsi was involved with foreign elements - the "hidden hand" that plays such a large role in Egyptian politics.
As for the hundreds of other Muslim Brotherhood members sentenced to die, expect most of them to have their sentences commuted to long prison terms. The efforts of the government to clamp down on the Brotherhood won't destroy the organization. But they can certainly keep them from causing trouble in the streets.