Egypt court acquits 169 Brotherhood supporters

CAIRO Mon May 19, 2014 8:54am EDT

Egyptian Army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi arrives for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, February 13, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Egyptian Army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi arrives for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, February 13, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

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CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian court acquitted 169 Muslim Brotherhood supporters charged in connection with unrest that followed the overthrow of president Mohamed Mursi last year, breaking a pattern of mass convictions at trials involving the Islamist opposition.

The men were charged with "illegal gathering" in relation to violence in Cairo on August 16 last year, two days after the security forces killed hundreds of Mursi supporters while breaking up their protest camps in the capital.

Of those charged, 117 were still being held. They will now be freed. Others charged in the case had already been released. Further details on the ruling were not immediately available.

The authorities have jailed thousands of Mursi supporters since the army deposed the Brotherhood politician last July following mass protests against his rule.

Earlier this year, a judge issued preliminary death sentences against 1,200 Brotherhood supporters and members in two separate cases, triggering heavy condemnation from Western governments and human rights groups. The convicted included the group's leader, Mohamed Badie.

Rights groups criticized the trials for deep procedural flaws, and despite the acquittals, other courts are continuing with convictions.

A judge in Alexandria on Monday convicted 62 people and sentenced them to jail terms of up to 25 years in relation to political violence last July. The judge also upheld the death penalty against one of those charged in the case.

This came a day after more than 160 Brotherhood supporters were handed sentences of up to 15 years in prison.

Mursi's overthrow triggered the worst bout of internal strife in Egypt's modern history, with many hundreds of his supporters killed.

Several hundred policemen and soldiers have also died in a campaign of bombings and shootings since last year.

Gunmen killed two policemen in southern Egypt and a bomb wounded three students outside a university in Cairo on Monday, security sources said, a week before a presidential election former army chief Abddel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to win.

(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Michael Georgy and Toby Chopra)

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