Verdict expected on April 28 in second mass Egyptian trial
An Egyptian judge will issue a verdict on April 28 in a new mass trial of 683 suspected Islamist supporters of the ousted president Mohammed Mursi for murder and attempted murder after a single session boycotted by defence lawyers.
Judge Said Youssef, who sentenced more than 520 defendants to death on Monday, went ahead yesterday, hearing witnesses in the case despite the lawyers' absence. Defence lawyers had boycotted the session - attended by 60 defendants - after complaining of irregularities.
Protests erupted at Minya University after the trial began, with police firing tear gas to deter hundreds of demonstrators.
The UN human rights office said the mass death sentences contravened international law. "The astounding number of people sentenced to death in this case is unprecedented in recent history," said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights.
The European Union and the United States also criticised the ruling, as did rights groups.
"Yesterday was ... a death sentence for the credibility and independence of Egypt's criminal justice system," said Nicholas Piachaud, a campaigner at Amnesty International.
"There is little hope of the 683 people indicted in this latest trial of receiving fair proceedings before the same judge who yesterday handed down death sentences so readily."
Justice Ministry official Abdel Atheem al-Ashari defended the sentences, saying the separation between the state and the judiciary was one of the main principles of any democratic system.
Egypt has cracked down hard on the Muslim Brotherhood since Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi toppled Mursi in July, and installed a government.
Associated Press, Reuters