An Egyptian military court has referred the files of 14 defendants to the country’s top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, seeking his approval of their execution. The defendants have been convicted of violence and allegedly killing a soldier in the northern governorate of Alexandria in 2014 and 2015, according to a legal source.
The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that 10 of the defendants were present in the court and the remaining four were sentenced to death in absentia.
The military court did not set a date for releasing the verdict of the case, which includes 41 defendants (21 in attendance and 20 in absentia), according to the same source.
A referral to the Mufti in Egyptian law is a step towards the death sentence. The Mufti’s opinion is advisory rather than binding for the judge, who can order the execution of the defendant even if the Mufti rejects the sentence.
The military prosecutor accused the 41 defendants of joining a group established contrary to the law – in reference to the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood group – killing a soldier, and setting fire to two vehicles belonging to the Ministry of Justice. The defendants denied the accusations.
The military prosecution referred the defendants to trial before a military criminal court in late 2015. The court held its first hearing on 19 July 2016.
Since the military staged a coup in July 2013 and the country’s former defence minister was elected president in 2014, the Egyptian authorities have launched a crackdown on opponents, activists and all dissidents, including Islamists and secularists. The Muslim Brotherhood group was outlawed after the coup and hundreds of its members now face trial.
Since the 2013 coup 917 Egyptians have been sentenced to death.