By Reuters

02 February 15


Proponents of outlawed group were convicted of playing a role in killings of 16 police officers in 2013 


n Egyptian court has sentenced 183 supporters of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to death as authorities continue to crack down on Islamists.

The men were convicted of playing a role in the killings of 16 police officers in the town of Kardasa in August 2013 during the upheaval that followed the army’s ousting of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. Thirty-four were sentenced in absentia on Monday.

Egypt has mounted one of the biggest crackdowns in its modern history on the Brotherhood since the political demise of Morsi. Thousands of supporters have been arrested and put on mass trials in a campaign which human rights groups say shows the government is systematically repressing opponents.

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who as army chief toppled Morsi, has described the Brotherhood as a major security threat. The movement says it is committed to peaceful activism.

The death sentences followed one of the bloodiest attacks on Egyptian security forces in years. Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate claimed responsibility for a series of coordinated operations that killed at least 32 people on Thursday.

Sisi blamed the Brotherhood for the violence and told Egyptians in a televised address that the war against militancy will be a long, tough one.

Egyptian authorities make no distinction between the Brotherhood, Islamic State and al-Qaida, arguing that they have a shared ideology and are equally dangerous.

Security forces killed hundreds of Brotherhood supporters and arrested thousands of others after Morsi was ousted.

After the death sentences were read out on Monday, Brotherhood supporters held in metal cages shouted profanities at policemen. A defence lawyer looked at the Islamists and said “You have God”.

The Egyptian government’s human rights record has come under closer scrutiny since female activist Shaimaa Sabbagh was shot dead during a Cairo protest on 24 January, a day before the anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

Separately, an Egyptian police officer has been detained on suspicion of killing a suspected member of the Brotherhood in hospital, the interior ministry has said.

The suspect was being treated in custody for wounds suffered while he was allegedly planting explosives. The ministry said that the man had provoked the policeman by insulting him. “Then the policeman lost control of his feelings,” it said.