Egypt's 683 Death Sentences for Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood Defy Basic Int'l Justice, Says WH

In a mass trial on Monday, an Egyptian judge sentenced 683 supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi to death for their alleged involvement in post-coup violence following Morsi's departure from office in 2013. The recent ruling has been denounced by human rights groups which argue such mass trials fail to find justice.

Judge Said Youssef announced his ruling Monday in the city of Minya, south of Cairo. Youssef said the 683 defendants, the majority of whom were tried in absentia, were guilty of participating in post-coup violence in August 2013. The violence occurred after the ousting of former President Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and was prompted in part to violent clashes between police and Islamic protesters in Cairo.

The judge said his verdict must still be approved by the Grand Mufti, the leading Islamic in the nation, although this portion of the sentencing is reportedly considered to be a formality.

One of those sentenced to death in Monday's hearing was Mohamed Badie, who serves as the "Supreme Guide" to the Muslim Brotherhood. According to Badie's lawyer Osama Mursi, the conservative leader said following his trial: "If they executed me one thousand times I will not retreat from the right path."

As Reuters notes, Monday's mass trial and others like it could lead to more violence and protests ahead of the country's presidential election next month. The ruling has already been denounced by human rights groups and the Obama administration, which has argued that such mass trials and sentencing violate the principles of justice.

The White House said in a statement that Monday's verdict "defies even the most basic standards of international justice."  While Amnesty International said it fears the country's court system is "becoming just another part of the authorities' repressive machinery, issuing sentences of death and life imprisonment on an industrial scale."

Mohamed Elmessiry, a researcher for Amnesty International, added to Al-Jazeera that Monday's ruling "lacked basic fair trial guarantees."

In a similar but separate case also determined on Monday, Judge Youssef confirmed the death sentences of 37 out of 529 men also accused of being Morsi supporters. The other 492 were able to reduce their sentences to 25-year jail terms. Monday's sentencing alone totaled 720 death sentences for Morsi supporters.