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Egyptian military court reduces sentences against 34 Brotherhood defendants

Senior political figures of the Muslim Brotherhood Saad El-Katatni (2nd L) gesture during a trial session over the Wadi el-Natrun prison case at Cairo Police Academy in Egypt on 26 February, 2017 [Moustafa El Shemy/Anadolu Agency]
Senior political figures of the Muslim Brotherhood gesture during a trial session over the Wadi el-Natrun prison case at Cairo Police Academy in Egypt on 26 February, 2017 [Moustafa El Shemy/Anadolu Agency]

An Egyptian military court has reduced the life sentences imposed on 34 defendants to between five and seven years, their lawyer has told Anadolu. They had originally been found guilty of being members of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, committing acts of violence and vandalising public property in the southern province of Minya in 2013. A life sentence in Egypt normally means 25 years in prison.

Lawyer Khaled Al-Koumi said that the court in the Assiout Province also acquitted five other defendants due to a lack of evidence against them. Al-Koumi told Anadolu that the fact that one of the defendants is a Coptic Christian highlights the illogicality of the case, because he cannot possibly have been a member of the Islamist group. Tuesday's ruling can be appealed against within 60 days.

Read: Egypt sentences Muslim Brotherhood leader to life imprisonment

This case dates back to the summer of 2013 when military prosecutors accused 316 people in Minya of the crimes in question. The defendants and their lawyers denied the accusations. Nevertheless, in December 2016 a military court handed down life sentences against 251 of the defendants in absentia. Thirty-four of them were later arrested then retried. The same court sentenced 65 others to 10 years in prison and fined each of them 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,150).

Local and international human rights groups have repeatedly criticised the use of military courts for trying civilians in Egypt. They argue that they are entitled to trials in civilian courts, and that military courts deprive them of their legal rights.

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