Court upholds death sentence against Morsi for 2011 jailbreak

The Cairo Criminal Court upheld a death sentence against former President Mohamed Morsi and five others on Tuesday for a mass prison break in 2011.

The five others sentenced to death include Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, Saad al-Katatny, Essam al-Erian, Rashad Bayoumi and Mohie Hamed.

The court also upheld life sentences for 20 other prominent Brotherhood leaders in the same case, including Safwat Hegazy, Sobhi Saleh, Mohamed al-Beltagy and Saad al-Husseini. In addition, 16 defendants were sentenced to two years in prison, 94 death sentences were upheld in absentia, eight defendants sentenced to two years prison in absentia and one was given three years in absentia.

The death sentences were originally issued on May 16 and sent to the grand mufti for review. According to the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram, they can still be appealed.

Earlier on Tuesday, the court also upheld life sentences for Morsi and 16 others in a seperate case in which they were found guilty of espionage. A life sentence under Egyptian law is 25 years.

The court also upheld death sentences for prominent Brotherhood leaders Beltagy, Khairat al-Shater and Ahmed Abdel Aty in that case, along with 13 others in absentia. Two other defendants were given seven-year prison sentences.

Among those sentenced to death in absentia for espionage are renowned scholar Emad Shahin, who currently resides in the United States, and Morsi’s communications advisor Sondos Asem, who now lives in the United Kingdom.

Both had issued statements lambasting the verdict, with Asem vowing to pursue legal action to clear the charges against her.

Waiting inside the courtroom’s glass defendant’s dock, those Brotherhood members present for Tuesday’s ruling were dressed in color-coded prison uniforms. Those awaiting sentencing wore white, those already sentenced to prison wore blue and those sentenced to death wore red. After his death sentence was issued, Shater, who was dressed in blue to signify his previous jail sentence, put on a red cap, according to journalists attending the session.

Morsi and his co-defendants were convicted of conspiring against Egypt with foreign powers, including Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

Before both verdicts, Judge Shaban al-Shamy gave a long preamble, detailing what he described as the Brotherhood’s wrongdoings since the group was founded in 1928, and outlining his version of events during the 2011 revolution, including several prison breaks. The defendants stood silently during the speech, holding up the four-fingered Rabea salute in reference to the bloody dispersals of the Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda Square pro-Morsi sit-ins in August 2013.

By the end of the second speech, however, before the verdict was announced in the prison break case, the defendants sat down to await their fate.

The court ordered the defendants to collectively pay LE250 million in civil compensation for the lawyer who originally filed the lawsuit.

The judge said Morsi lost his presidential legitimacy when he undermined the judiciary, referring to executive powers he amassed in November 2012 after he passed a presidential decree granting himself an unprecedented degree of legal immunity.

The rulings were issued by a makeshift court at the Police Academy on the outskirts of Cairo. 

The jailbreak case relates to the 2011 escape from Wadi al-Natrun Prison, which occurred in the security vacuum following the popular uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak. Morsi and 130 co-defendants were charged — many in absentia — with storming prisons, assisting the escape of convicts and the looting of weapons, in addition to murder and the attempted murder of police officers, among other charges.

Hamas issued a statement when the initial verdict was issued, saying some of the defendants sentenced for escaping from prison were martyred before the revolution erupted in Egypt, like Tayseer Abu Seneima and Hossam al-Sanea, or Raed al-Attar who died in 2014, or were detained in Israeli prisons, like Hassan Salama, who has reportedly been in prison for 19 years.

Morsi was detained in the initial days of the 2011 uprising without formal charge and fled Wadi al-Natrun Prison, along with many others, after it was stormed. 

Morsi was also tried in a separate case for inciting the killing and torture of protesters outside the Ettehadiya Presidential Palace in 2012. He also faces charges of insulting the judiciary and fraud. 


You have a right to access accurate information, be stimulated by innovative and nuanced reporting, and be moved by compelling storytelling.

Subscribe now to become part of the growing community of members who help us maintain our editorial independence.
Know more

Join us

Your support is the only way to ensure independent,
progressive journalism