[JURIST] An Egyptian court on Tuesday acquitted 68 people, including members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who were charged with gathering illegally and attacking security forces earlier this year. The court’s decision to free the activists is considered a rare move, as Egyptian authorities have been cracking down on the Islamist movement since the army removed it from power in 2013. The court fined [Reuters report] each of the 68 people 50,000 Egyptian pounds (USD $6,553) on charges of protesting without a permit on the anniversary of the 2011 uprising.
Political conflict in Egypt has been ongoing since the ouster of former president Mohammad Morsi [BBC backgrounder] in 2013, and political backlash has been particularly strong against his Muslim Brotherhood party. Earlier in March an Egyptian court sentenced [JURIST report] a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and 13 others to death after finding them guilty of planning attacks against the state. Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie has been sentenced to death before, although the sentences were later reduced to life imprisonment. In January the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters banned and declared [JURIST report] Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed branch of Hamas, to be a terrorist group. Egypt has faced criticism for its mass death sentences of Muslim Brotherhood supporters, including sentencing 648 people to death [JURIST report] last April.