Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, was in the courtroom in a glass-covered, mesh-wire cage. He listened to the verdict with a slight smile.
The ruling was read out by judge al-Shami after he consulted with Egypt’s Mufti, a religious authority affiliated with the judiciary, as required by law in cases involving capital punishment.
“The court panel has unanimously agreed that there is no room for leniency or mercy for the defendants,” said al-Shami, who presides over a panel of three judges.
The Mufti’s opinions are not binding, and the ruling will automatically be referred to Egypt’s highest appeals court. The judge also confirmed death sentences for five other, jailed leading members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, including Mohammed Badie, the group’s leader, and Saad el-Katatni, the head of its short-lived political party.
Al-Shami said the defendants conspired and attempted to kill police officers when they broke into three of Egypt’s prisons, enabling 20,000 inmates to flee, causing chaos in Egypt and breaching its borders with the Gaza Strip.
He said they did so with foreign militants from the Palestinian Hamas movement, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and Sinai militants.
Another 21 defendants received life sentences, which in Egypt is 25 years. Another 93 defendants were tried in absentia and sentenced to death.
Now Morsi’s blue prison outfit will be replaced with an orange one. Morsi is already serving a 20-year sentence for his part in the 2012 killing of protesters outside his palace, when he was still president.
Morsi was forced out of office in July 2013 by the military, amid massive protests demanding his resignation. He has been detained since then, and his Muslim Brotherhood has been labelled a terrorist organisation.
Earlier yesterday, the same judge sentenced Morsi to life in prison for conspiring with foreign groups, including the Palestinian militant group, Hamas. That sentence can also be appealed.
Al-Shami confirmed death sentences against 16 other Islamists, including three jailed senior Brotherhood members. The other 13 were tried in absentia.