An Egyptian court has sentenced former President Mohammed Morsi and 16 others to life in prison, which holds a 25 year sentence, on charges of espionage. Khairat El-Shater, Mohammed El-Beltagy and 14 others were sentenced to death by hanging on the same charges.
Deposed President Mohammed Morsi and 20 others had initially been sentenced to life in prison on charges of espionage. The Court confirmed life sentences handed down to Morsi and 16 others, and sentenced another two defendants to seven years in prison.
Morsi and his co-defendants had been charged with espionage and communicating with foreign elements, including Iran and Hamas, to hinder Egypt’s national security.
Death sentences confirmed
A second charge of escaping from prison that initially saw Morsi sentenced to death was also confirmed on Tuesday.
During the 2011 revolution, Egypt’s Morsi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood escaped from Wadi al-Natroun prison. Charges were brought against Morsi and other defendants for damaging and torching prison buildings, murder and attempted murder of prison guards and looting.
While Morsi has never publicly given his account of the Wadi el-Natroun prison break, the former President had made a phone call to Al-Jazeera Mubasher TV as he was being freed. In the interview, Morsi claimed that prison guards fled after they failed to regain control of the environment.
During the trial, prosecutors had called the prison break as one of Egypt’s biggest ever conspiracies, saying that hundreds of foreign elements had been involved in prison breaks across Egypt in coordination with the Muslim Brotherhood. More than 20,000 inmates escaped from Egypt’s prisons during the 18 day revolution in 2011 say prosecutors. Prosecutors also alleged that 800 Hamas and Hezbollah members had entered Egypt through Gaza to carry out three prison breaks.
Despite the allegations, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood have said local residents, and not foreign elements, had been responsible for the prison breaks.
Morsi, who was deposed on July 3 after mass protests against his government, had won Egypt’s first free democratic elections since former Hosni Mubarak was toppled in 2011.
The deposed President was sentenced in April to 20 years in maximum security prison for violence outside the Presidential Palace in December 2012.