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Criticism greets death sentence for Egypt's ousted leader

Published:Saturday | May 16, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi sits in a defendant cage in the Police Academy courthouse in Cairo, Egypt.

ANKARA, Turkey (AP): Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticised Egypt for sentencing ousted President Mohammed Morsi to death, saying the country was returning to the "old Egypt" by rolling back democracy.

Erdogan yesterday also criticised western nations that he accused of not speaking out against Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who ousted Morsi, or against death sentences being handed down to Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group.

Turkey's government strongly supports the Muslim Brotherhood. Relations between Egypt and Turkey soured after Morsi's ouster by el-Sissi.

Early yesterday an Egyptian court sentenced Morsi and more than 100 others to death over a mass prison break during the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak and later brought Morsi's Islamist movement to power.

In what appeared to be the first violent response to the sentence, suspected Islamic militants in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula gunned down three judges and their driver, who were travelling in a car in the northern Sinai city of al-Arish.

As is customary in capital punishment cases, Judge Shaaban el-Shami referred his death sentence on Morsi and the others to the nation's top Muslim theologian, or mufti, for his non-binding opinion.

Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected leader, was ousted by the military in July 2013 following days of mass street protests by Egyptians demanding that he be removed because of his divisive policies.

Also sentenced to death with Morsi in the prison break case were 105 defendants, most tried and convicted in absentia. They include some 70 Palestinians.

Supporters of Morsi and his now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood chanted "down, down with military rule" as el-Shami announced the verdict in the courtroom, a converted lecture hall in the national police academy in an eastern Cairo suburb.

Those sentenced to death with Morsi include the Brotherhood's spiritual leader, Mohammed Badie, as well as one of the Arab world's best known Islamic scholars.