Egypt sentences 75 to death, hundreds to jail over 2013 sit-in

Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Mohamed Badie was handed a life sentence. (File/AFP)
Updated 08 September 2018
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Egypt sentences 75 to death, hundreds to jail over 2013 sit-in

  • Egypt sentenced 75 people to death over a 2013 pro-Muslim Brotherhood sit-in which ended with the killing of hundreds of protesters
  • Those sentenced to death by hanging include senior Brotherhood leaders Essam Al-Erian and Mohamed Beltagi and prominent Islamist preacher Safwat Higazi

CAIRO: An Egyptian court on Saturday issued death sentences for 75 people and jailed more than 600 others over a 2013 sit-in which ended with the killing of hundreds of protesters by security forces.
The sentencing concluded the mass trial of some 700 people accused of offenses including murder and inciting violence during the pro-Muslim Brotherhood protest at Rabaa Adawiya square in Cairo.
The government says many protesters were armed and that eight members of the security forces were killed. It initially said more than 40 police had died.
Rights groups say more than 800 protesters died in the single most deadly incident during the unrest that followed Egypt’s 2011 popular uprising. Amnesty International condemned Saturday’s decision, calling the trial “disgraceful.”
In Saturday’s hearing at the vast Tora prison complex south of Cairo, a criminal court sentenced to death by hanging several prominent figures including senior Brotherhood leaders Essam Al-Erian and Mohamed Beltagi and preacher Safwat Higazi.
Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Mohamed Badie and dozens more were given life sentences, judicial sources said. Others received jail sentences ranging from five to 15 years.
Cases were dropped against five people who had died while in prison, judicial sources said, without giving further details.
Following weeks of protests in 2013 against the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi by the military, security forces violently broke up the demonstrators at Rabaa square.
They arrested hundreds of people who were charged with inciting violence, murder and organizing illegal protests.
Rights groups have criticized the trial for including many peaceful protesters and journalists.
An award-winning photographer who covered the protests, Mahmoud Abu Zeid, was sentenced to five years in jail, but would soon be released because his five years in detention during the trial are counted toward the sentence, judicial sources said.
Abu Zeid, also known as Shawkan, was awarded a United Nations press freedom prize this year. He was charged with belonging to a banned group and possessing firearms.


Muslims pray in banned area of Al-Aqsa for first time since 2003

The worshippers forced their way into the area ahead of Friday prayer. (Reuters)
Updated 23 February 2019
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Muslims pray in banned area of Al-Aqsa for first time since 2003

  • The worshippers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show their delight at the reopening of the area

AMMAN: For the first time since 2003, Muslim worshippers broke an Israeli ban and offered Friday prayers in the Bab Al-Rahmeh prayer hall, which is part of the Haram Al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Hundreds of Palestinian worshippers entered the Bab Al-Rahmeh area inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday for the first time since the area was closed to Muslim worship by Israeli authorities.

The worshippers, led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein and other religious leaders, forced their way into the area ahead of the weekly Friday prayer, defying the Israeli ban.

The worshippers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show their delight at the reopening of the area, which has only been open during the past 16 years to Jewish fanatics during provocative visits to the Muslim holy place, the third holiest site in Islam, according to the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa.

Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the former mufti and now a member of the newly constituted Islamic Waqf Council in Jerusalem, delivered a short sermon in which he reiterated that “the Haram Al-Sharif is all 144 dunums of land, including the mosques, prayer halls, courtyard musuems and schools within it.” Sabri said that Muslims will not allow anyone to diminish Muslim rights in the entire mosque area.

The Friday prayer at Bab Al-Rahmeh went off peacefully in part because of an Israeli decision late on Thursday not to make any further escalations, a reliable source in Jerusalem told Arab News.

Khaleel Assali, a member of the new council who participated in the prayer at Bab Al-Rahmeh, told Arab News that the mood was peaceful and upbeat. “It was a beautiful thing to be able to reclaim part of our religious site that we were barred from using for so many years.”

The deputy head of the PLO’s Fatah movement, Mahmoud Alloul, praised the unprecedented action by the popular movement in Jerusalem. 

In a statement published on the Wafa website, Alloul called on Palestinians to stay steadfast in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa and Bab Al-Rahmeh and to “continue to stand up to the occupiers and their repeated incursions in Al-Aqsa courtyards.”

Mohammad Ishtieh, a senior Fatah leader who is expected to be the next Palestinian prime minister, issued a statement saying that what happened in Jerusalem today proves beyond a shadow of doubt that all actions and decisions aimed at Judaization of Jerusalem have failed as a result of the steadfastness of our people in our eternal capital. Ishtieh praised the defenders of Jerusalem who screamed for justice and who again forced the Israeli occupiers to back down.

Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) and a new member of the Jordanian-appointed Waqf Council, told Arab News that all parties participated and share this success. “Everyone participated and every party should get credit for this success. Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa unite us.”

The popular protests that led to the breakup of the 16-year-old Israeli ban began on Feb. 13 when the newly constituted empowered and expanded 18-member Waqf Council decided to hold a symbolic prayer at the barred Bab Al-Rahmeh site. The Israelis responded by placing heavy chains at the gate and making arrests. 

After four days of arrests, Israel allowed the removal of the chains but would not go as far as allowing Muslim worshippers to enter. On Wednesday the Waqf Council called on worshippers to pray at the Bab Al-Rahmeh site. All five daily prayers were held outside the barred prayer hall. A confrontation was expected Friday, but the insistence of the worshippers on reclaiming their site led to the Israelis backing down, Jerusalem sources told Arab News.