Egypt’s ousted Islamist President, Mohammed Morsi, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for the 2012 killing of protesters.
This is the first time in the country’s history that a freely elected leader has been sentenced to prison.
The ruling is only part of the dramatic downfall of Morsi, who was also part of Egypt’s once-powerful Muslim Brotherhood group. While other members of the Brotherhood were sentenced to death, Morsi escaped the death penalty.
The Brotherhood and Morsi quickly rose to power in 2011 after dictator Hosni Mubarak was oust. However, not more than a year later, Moris and his Brotherhood group found themselves imprisoned after millions of Egyptians protested against them for overthrowing the government and abuse of power.
Judge Ahmed Youssef issued his verdict as Morsi and numerous Brotherhood leaders stood in a soundproof glass cage constructed inside a makeshift courtroom. Seven of the Brotherhood group were tried in absentia.
Along with Morsi, 12 other Brotherhood leaders and Islamist supporters were also sentenced to 20 years in prison. However, Youssef dropped the murder charges involved in the case saying the sentences were linked to the “show of force” and unlawful detention associated with the case, which stems from violence outside the presidential palace in 2012.
Supporters of Morsi attacked opposition protesters, demanding that Morsi call off a referendum on an Islamist-drafted constitution. At least 10 people died in clashes.
Top Muslim Brotherhood figure, Amr Darrag, who remains in exile in Turkey, called the ruling “a sad and terrible day in Egyptian history.”
“They want to pass a life sentence for democracy in Egypt,” Darrag said.
Under the government of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who as army chief overthrew Morsi, Brotherhood members and Islamists have faced mass trials that end with mass death sentences, sparking international condemnation.
“Morsi’s trial gripped international attention and a heavy sentence would have put the judiciary under a spotlight,” said Sameh Eid, a former Brotherhood member who researches Islamic movements. “Today, the judiciary seemed keen in preserving its image.”