More than 500 members of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood were sentenced to death on Monday for a series of attacks on government buildings and the murder of a colonel last August, in an unprecedented decision handed down by an Egyptian court.
Although numerous followers of the deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi have been sentenced to prison since the July 3 military coup, up to now no death sentences have been issued.
The Muslim Brotherhood, declared a terrorist group by the authorities last December, denounced the sentence as "inhuman, a clear violation of all judical regulations and a new crime of the military coup."
This massive sentence, issued in record time during the second hearing of the trial just two days after it began, raises serious doubts about the Egyptian judicial system, according to organizations like Amnesty International.
"Egypt's courts are quick to punish Mohamed Mursi's supporters but ignore gross human rights violations by the security forces," Amnesty International said in a statement.
The criminal court at Minya, south of Cairo, submitted its decision to the country's mufti - Muslim jurists - and to the high religious authority Shauqi Alam for their non-binding comments on the case.
Once obtained the religious opinion of the mufti, the tribunal will render its formal decision on April 28, which according to experts will coincide with the death penalty announced Monday, and defense attorneys will be able to file an appeal.
Since defense attorneys were barred from entering the court, there are contridictory accounts about the number of people sentenced. A judicial source told Efe that 528 members and sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood were sentenced to death and 17 pardoned, figures confirmed by the official news agency Mena.
The court, presided over by Judge Said Yusef, found them guilt of attacking government buildings in Minya province, killing a colonel, trying to murder two police officials, setting fire to a police station and seizing arms.
These attacks took place in protest against the violent police. eviction of Islamist camps in Cairo last Aug. 14, when hundreds of people died and a wave of violence swept the country
Attorney Ahmed Shabib told Efe that although 529 people have been sentenced, only 135 appeared in court, with the others being sentenced while still in rebellion. EFE