Mass trials ordered despite human rights groups’ criticism over earlier trial issuing death sentences against hundreds
’s chief prosecutor on Wednesday ordered two new mass trials for 919 suspected Islamists on charges that include murder, despite international criticism of an earlier trial that issued death sentences against hundreds of defendants.
Students, most of them Islamists, held protests on Wednesday against the death sentences in several universities, turning into clashes with security forces that left one 18-year-old student dead at Cairo University, the health ministry said.
The new trials will be held in Minya province, south of Cairo, where a judge on Monday sentenced 529 defendants to death on charges of killing a police officer during an attack on a police station last summer.
The verdict brought an outcry from rights groups and criticism from the UN, EU and US over the cursory trial, which lasted only two sessions and in which lawyers said they were denied the right to make their case or question witnesses.
Egyptian authorities are holding a series of mass trials in a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and other supporters of Morsi since the military removed him in July. Around 16,000 people have been arrested over the past months, including most of the Brotherhood’s leadership.
The new trials bring the total number of defendants in Minya along to 2,147 in four trials, including the trial in which the verdicts were issued on Monday.
All the trials are connected to violence in mid-August after security forces broke up two pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo. More than 600 were killed during the sit-in break-up, setting off a backlash of violence for days as suspected Morsi supporters attacked police stations, government installations and churches in towns around Egypt, leaving hundreds dead.
In one of the new trials, 715 defendants, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s leader, Mohammed Badie, are charged with killing six people and the attempted murder of 51 others during attacks on state institutions on 14 August in the city of Sallamout. Only 160 defendants in this case are in detention. The prosecutor asked for the arrest of the remainder.
In the second trial, 204 defendants, also including Badie, face charges of inciting violence. Only three are in detention in this case, in which the charges include attacking state institutions and police in al-Adawa town, also in Minya.
A court will set a date for the trials.
A judicial official said the same judge who issued the death sentences on Monday will preside over the two new trials. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the press.