Death sentences of 75 Muslim Brotherhood members upheld

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Cairo : An Egyptian court on Saturday issued its final verdict upholding the death sentences of 75 Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters -- including journalists -- for participating in protests following the 2013 ouster of democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi.

The mass trial has been widely condemned by human rights organizations, with Amnesty International calling it a "grotesque parody of justice", the BBC reported.

The case dates back to 2013 when Morsi supporters gathered in Rabaa el Adawiya Square in Cairo's Nasr City district following his overthrow by the Army in July 2013 in response to mass protests against his one-year rule.

The 739 defendants, who included members of the Muslim Brotherhood, were arrested and tried for participating in the month-long sit-in in Cairo to protest Morsi's removal.

Earlier this year, Egypt's Parliament gave military officers immunity for the deadly crackdown and any crimes committed between July 2013 and January 2016.

Those who were sentenced in the mass trial were accused of security-related offences including incitement to violence, murder and organising illegal protests.

The 75 death sentences were handed down in July and Saturday's confirmation of them and the additional verdicts mark the end of the mass trial.

Among those sentenced to death at the Cairo Criminal Court were prominent Muslim Brotherhood members Essam El-Erian, Mohamed Beltagy, Abdel-Rahman al-Bar and Osama Yassin. Of the 75 people, 44 are in jail and 31 are on the run.

Another 56 defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment, including Mohamed Badie, leader of the now banned Muslim Brotherhood.

About 200 defendants were sentenced to five years behind bars, among them award-winning photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid. He was detained while taking pictures of the dispersal of the demonstration. He was expected to now walk free after having spent five years in jail pending trial.

Osama Morsi, the son of the ousted President, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Another 360 defendants were sentenced to 15 years in prison. No one was found innocent.

Of the accused, 315 are jailed and 419 are fugitives. Charges were dropped against five defendants who died.

The government's actions in dispersing the Rabaa el Adawiya Square protest were widely condemned as at least 817 people were killed in the violence, according to a 2014 report by Human Rights Watch.

Saturday's verdict came shortly after the US government released tens of millions of dollars in military aid to Egypt, funds that had been previously withheld due to concerns over the country's human rights record.