Judges shot dead hours after Morsi death sentence

Two Egyptian judges, prosecutor shot dead in Sinai hours after former president Mohamed Morsi was sentenced to death.


Two Egyptian judges and a prosecutor have been shot dead hours after ousted president Mohamed Morsi was sentenced to death.

Police said the judges were travelling in a car in the city of al-Arish, Sinai, when it was attacked by suspected Islamist gunmen. The shooting also killed the officials’ driver and wounded another prosecutor, the health ministry said.

Police initially said three judges were killed in the attack that came hours after a court in Cairo sentenced ousted president Mohamed Morsi to death for his role in a mass jailbreak during the 2011 uprising.

It is unclear whether the attack was linked to anger over the death sentence passed for Morsi in Cairo but the Egyptian government has blamed Muslim Brotherhood supporters for violence in Sinai in the past.

Morsi's party has been banned and hundreds of its former officials and supporters have been arrested and jailed. On Saturday, Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, was sentenced to death after being convicted of plotting with foreign militants to free Islamists and supporters of his Muslim Brotherhood in raids on several jails.

The 2011 prison break saw hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members escape four jails in Cairo as armed gangs took advantage of chaos during the Arab Spring.

A total of 105 defendants have also been sentenced to death, including around 70 Palestinians, most of whom had been tried and convicted in absentia. Some of Morsi's fellow defendants included jihadists in Sinai, where militants often attack members of the security forces.

The ruling against Mursi is not final until June 2. All capital sentences are referred to Egypt's top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, for a non-binding opinion, and are also subject to legal appeal.

The death sentence triggered widespread criticism by the US and human rights groups, who argued that the decision was ‘politically motivated’ to kill Egypt’s first freely elected president.

"We are deeply concerned by yet another mass death sentence handed down by an Egyptian court to more than 100 defendants, including former President Mursi," a US State Department official said on Sunday.

"We have consistently spoken out against the practice of mass trials and sentences, which are conducted in a manner that is inconsistent with Egypt's international obligations and the rule of law," he said.

Morsi was ousted by the military in July 2013 following days of mass street protests by Egyptians demanding that he be removed because of his divisive policies.

The ousted leader already is serving a 20-year sentence following his conviction on April 21 on charges linked to the killing of protesters outside a Cairo presidential palace in December 2012.