The Coptic Catholic Bishop of Assiut has condemned the death sentence handed down by the Egyptian court to former President Mohamed Morsi, despite the oppression and incitement of deadly crimes committed against Christians during his rule. Anba Kyrillos William said that the church does not compromise on defending life, which he called an "inviolable right."
"The Church respects the independence of the judiciary, but believes that life is an inviolable right, and remains opposed to the death penalty. The fact is that this type of sentence is still contemplated in the Egyptian legal order," William told Fides News Agency.
Morsi, along with 100 other people, were sentenced to death late last week over a mass prison break in 2011, BBC News reported.
His life may still be spared if the verdict is changed by the Grand Mufti of Al-Azhar on June 2, William noted.
"The reaction of the Islamists has already taken violent connotations. While the population seems to support the judgment. The people have not forgotten the suffering endured when Morsi was president," the bishop said.
"Now we have to wait for the verdict of the Grand Mufti of Al-Azhar, that on June 2 will either confirm the sentence or ask the sentence to be changed in other less severe punishments such as life imprisonment."
Morsi, who was disposed of power following a nationwide uprising in July 2013, has been the subject of a series of criminal trials. In April he was initially sentenced to 20 years in prison for unlawful arrests and torture carried out during his time in power.
Egyptian authorities have banned Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood party since his fall, and have arrested thousands of his supporters.
Christians suffered greatly in the wake of the 2013 uprising, with Morsi supporters targeting them for supporting the anti-government protests. Minority Christians were attacked across Egypt, while Christian bookstores, orphanages and churches were vandalized.
The European Union and the United States have also spoken out against the mass death sentences, with E.U. representative Federica Mogherini calling the punishment "cruel and inhumane."
"The court decision to seek the death penalty ... was taken at the end of a mass trial that was not in line with Egypt's obligations under international law," Mogherini said, according to Al Jazeera News.
An anonymous U.S. state department official said the Obama administration expressed "deep concern" after the verdict.
"We have consistently spoken out against the practice of mass trials and sentences, which are conducted in a manner that is inconsistent with Egypt's international obligations and the rule of law," the White House official said on Sunday.
"We continue to stress the need for due process and individualised judicial processes for all Egyptians in the interests of justice."
Mohamed Soudan, a senior member of the Brotherhood who fled Egypt to the U.K. following Morsi's fall, called the mass verdicts "farcical."
"They're insisting on issuing these verdicts against anyone who participated in the January 25 Revolution ... all of the verdicts fail to meet international standards of law ... they are farcical and will be dismissed as a failing of the coup," Soudan said.