CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian court listed the Palestinian group Hamas as a terrorist organization, judicial sources said on Saturday, part of a sustained crackdown on Islamists in the most populous Arab state.
In a separate case earlier in the day, a court sentenced the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s top leader Mohamed Badie to life in prison while other members received the death penalty.
Hamas is an offshoot of the Brotherhood, which the authorities have also declared a terrorist group in Egypt and have repressed systematically since the army ousted one of its leaders, Mohamed Mursi, from the presidency in 2013.
While a court ruled in January that Hamas’ armed wing was a terrorist organization, Saturday’s broader ruling against the entire group has potentially greater consequences for the already strained relationship between Cairo and Hamas, which dominates the Gaza Strip on Egypt’s border.
“The Egyptian court’s decision to list the Hamas movement as a terror organization is shocking and is dangerous, and it targets the Palestinian people and its factions of resistance,” Hamas said in a statement after the ruling.
“It will have no influence on the Hamas movement,” Hamas said.
After the January decision against Hamas’ Qassem Brigades, a source close to the armed wing signaled the group would no longer accept Egypt as a broker between it and Israel.
Cairo has for many years played a central role in engineering ceasefires between Israel and Hamas, including a truce reached between the sides in August that ended a 50-day Gaza war.
A spokesman for the Egyptian government declined to say what actions the government would take to enforce the ruling.
“When a final judgment is issued, we will discuss this,” Hossam al-Qawish said.
In the other case, Badie, the top leader of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, was among 14 who were sentenced to life, alongside deputy leader Khairat El-Shater and leading figure Mohamed El-Beltagy.
Four lower-level members were sentenced to death for inciting violence that led to the killing of protesters demonstrating outside a Brotherhood office days before Mursi’s ouster.
Two of those sentenced to death and three sentenced to life were tried in absentia.
The death sentences are subject to appeal and many of the defendants are already serving lengthy sentences on other charges.
Badie has already been sentenced to multiple life terms, and was one of hundreds given the death sentence in a mass trial that drew international criticism of Egypt’s judicial system.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who as army chief toppled Mursi, describes the Brotherhood as a major security threat.
The movement says it is committed to peaceful activism.
Reporting By Ahmed Tolba and Mahmoud Mourad in Cairo and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Writing By Shadi Bushra; Editing by Pravin Char and Stephen Powell