A final ruling on the death sentence handed down to former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi will be announced in two weeks, a Cairo court said Tuesday.
The court's announcement came a day after police arrested two top leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, Abdel-Rahman el-Bar and Mahmoud Ghozlan, who had been in hiding for the last two years, The Associated Press reports. A Brotherhood spokesman described the arrests as a “failed attempt by the brutal coup authorities to disrupt the revolutionaries across the nation."
Morsi and more than 100 others were sentenced to death last month over a mass prison break in 2011 that occurred during protests against ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
The crackdown on the Brotherhood since the military ouster of Morsi has seen the slow but steady decline of what was once Egypt's most influential political group. The current government considers it a threat to national security. Human rights groups claim that up to 1,000 Brotherhood supporters have been killed and thousands of others have been detained.
The new arrests could increase already intense pressures on the Brotherhood, which has began to splinter into two groups: the old guard that enforces peaceful activism, and a newer, younger guard that want to fight violence with violence. Political infighting is evident, which experts believe gives the President Abdal Fattah el-Sisi an advantage.
"The regime thought it is facing a huge organized entity that needs excessive effort to be dismantled. Now the state can sit back and watch the Muslim Brotherhood destruct,” Ahmed Ban, a political Islam expert, told Al-Arabiya News.
Soon after the death sentence verdict last month, The Christian Science Monitor reported:
Some observers are concerned … that Egypt has slopped back into its authoritarian days. In that context, if Morsi is executes, Muslim Brotherhood supporter would take it as provocation.
“Morsi being an Islamist leader and a symbolic figure…has to be published harshly in order to convey the unambiguous message to all Islamists and other activists that there is no going back to pre-June 2013 democratic transition,” Yasser el-Shimy, an Egyptian academic at Boston University told The Guardian. “Ultimately, if the verdict is carried out, it will push many Islamist youth further away from peaceful political participation, and make it virtually impossible to achieve political reconciliation in Egypt.”
The court referred Morsi’s sentencing to the grand mufti, the highest religious authority in Egypt, for confirmation last month. On Tuesday, the court set June 16 as the date to decide on his death sentence, after it receives the mufti's opinion, the AP reports.
Morsi has a right to appeal his sentence and the mufti's recommendation is not binding. Even if he advises against the death sentence, the court can still go ahead with it.
At the time of the verdict, Abdullah al-Arian, a history professor at Georgetown University’s Qatar campus, told Al Jazeera that the death sentences were no surprise.
“These highly politicized trials that contravene all standards of justice, the judiciary is ding its part to cement a new political reality in Egypt, one that seeks to silence all dissent and restore the full strength of the authoritarian system that was in place for decades,” he said.