An Egyptian court has sentenced 683 people—among them the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood—to death after an attack on a police station last year that killed a cop. The verdict was met by an outpouring of grief from crowds outside the court, as well as condemnation from the UN and human rights organizations, the BBC reports. Defense teams weren't allowed to make their cases in trials that lasted only a few hours each, Human Rights Watch complains. Only some 50 of those sentenced are currently in custody; if others turn themselves in, they're reportedly eligible for a retrial.
A final ruling is set for June. The sentences now head to the country's leading religious authority, the Grand Mufti—but its decision tends to be a "formality," the BBC notes. That ruling "won't mean anything to the judge," an official tells the AP. "Only the judge has the right and the power to reverse his earlier decisions." An HRW director tells Reuters that "the decisions are possibly the largest possible death sentences in recent world history." In further rulings:
- The court reversed a death sentence for 529 other Brotherhood backers, leaving 37 sentenced to death while most of the rest received life in prison. Those sentences were also tied to the August police station attack in Minya province. The court didn't tell waiting relatives which 37 people had been sentenced to death, a BBC correspondent says. Some 60% of the 529 can prove they weren't there during the attack, says a defense lawyer, per a human rights group.
- The April 6 youth movement that helped topple Hosni Mubarak has been banned in court, local sources say, via Reuters. It faced charges of "damaging the image of the state." A higher tribunal can suspend that ruling, the AP notes.
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