The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] on Tuesday expressed acute concern after an Egyptian court on Monday sentenced [JURIST report] 529 supporters of deposed president Mohammed Morsi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to death for inciting violence and protest. The OHCHR reportedly takes issue with the court's failure [UN News Centre report] to offer more than perfunctory procedural protections, in violation of international law. The verdicts, which came after only two sessions, are subject to appeal. Experts suggest that the harshness of the rulings illustrates the lengths to which Egypt's courts have been politicized and due process has been ignored during a crackdown on Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood [JURIST news archive] supporters following the president's removal in a military coup last July. During the first of the two trial sessions in Minya, the judge rejected requests by defense lawyers for more time to review trial documents for the defendants, leading to furious arguments. Defense lawyers were barred by security forces from the second session on Monday when verdicts and sentences were read.
Political conflict in Egypt has been ongoing since the 2011 revolution [JURIST backgrounder] that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak from power. Much of that conflict has occurred recently between supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the former government of Morsi, and supporters of the new government in place since his ouster in July 2013, especially since the organization's formal ban [JURIST reports] in September. On March 18, an Egyptian court sentenced [JURIST report] four police officers for their role in the deaths of 37 Islamists. Opponents have criticized the light sentences handed down to the officers. A day earlier, an Egyptian prosecutor referred [JURIST report] Morsi's youngest son, Abdullah Morsi, to trial on allegations of drug use and possession. In February, the Cairo Criminal Court convicted [JURIST report] 26 people of forming a terrorist group with intent to attack the Suez Canal.