28/07/2018 13:59 BST

Egypt Court Sentences 75 To Death In 2013 Sit-In Case

The sit-in supported former Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.

An Egypt Court on Saturday sentenced 75 people to death, with the decision now going to the the country's top theological authority for approval

A court in Egypt has sentenced 75 people to death, including top figures of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, for their involvement in a 2013 sit-in, state-run media reported.

Saturday’s decision in Cairo Criminal Court will now be referred to the Grand Mufti, Shawqi Allam – the country’s top theological authority – for his non-binding opinion on the sentences.

Allam usually approves the court’s decision.

Sentencing for more than 660 others was set for September 8, according to the state-run Al-Ahram news website.

The case involves 739 defendants, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie and photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid.

Charges range from murder to damaging public property and the accused face a range of sentences including execution and life in prison.

The 2013 sit-in supported former Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, who was militarily ousted following mass protests against his divisive one-year rule.

Morsi hailed from the Brotherhood.

Al Youm Al Saabi / Reuters
Mohamed Badie, top leader of Egypt's outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, is led by police to talk during a trial hearing in Cairo in 2015

The sit-in was violently dispersed.

Egyptian law requires any capital sentence to be referred to the Grand Mufti for an opinion before any execution can take place.

The Mufti’s decision is not legally binding, but is rarely ignored by the courts.

In 2014 the Mufti rejected a death sentence proposed for Badie, who has since been sentenced to life in prison.

The 75 cases transferred to the Mufti for his verdict include those of senior Brotherhood leaders Issam al-Aryan, Mohamed Baltagi and prominent Islamist preachers Safwat Higazi and Wagdi Ghoneim, judicial sources said. Forty-four of the accused are in prison awaiting their sentence, and 31 have been tried in absentia.

Rights groups have criticised the trial of more than 700 people in the same case, saying they peaceful protesters.

Amnesty International said on Saturday the trial was unfair, and that those accused had been denied the right to present an adequate defense.

“Egyptian authorities have never questioned or prosecuted any of the security force personnel who took part in the massacre,” it said in a statement.