An Egyptian court on Monday sentenced 183 people to death over the ransacking of a police station and the killing of 15 policemen after the 2013 ouster of President Mohammed Morsi. The verdict was the latest in a string of mass death sentences that have sparked local and international condemnation.
The charges are related to the bloody August 2013 ransacking of a police station in the village of Kerdassah, near Cairo. The attackers killed 15 officers, including the police chief, and mutilated some of the bodies.
The assault was believed to be revenge by Morsi loyalists for the government's crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi, a longtime Brotherhood official, was ousted by the military in July 2013 following mass protests against his rule. Morsi supporters staged a pair of large public sit-in protests in Cairo, which were harshly broken up by police on August 14, 2013 — killing hundreds of Brotherhood cadres. The attack on the Kerdassah police station began a few hours after the Brotherhood sit-ins were cleared.
Monday's verdict was issued by judge Mohammed Nagi Shehata, who has developed a reputation for harsh sentences against perceived government critics. Shehata sentenced a trio of prominent revolutionary activists to prison for violating a new law against unauthorized demonstrations. He also sentenced three journalists from Al-Jazeera English to jail terms ranging from 7-10 years; one of those journalists, Australian Peter Greste, was released and deported Sunday, while the other two remain in prison.
Other judges have also handed down mass death sentences against Brotherhood supporters, including more than 1000 in a pair of mass trials that were heavily criticized by international human rights groups. Many of those sentences were later overturned on appeal, and in one incident, a judge was removed.
Morsi is, himself, facing multiple trials over his 1-year reign — including charges of conspiring with foreign groups and authorizing the killing of protesters. He is scheduled to begin a new trial on Feb. 15 over charges connected to leaking classified national security documents to another country. The Egyptian government has officially declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.