Egypt’s top religious authority has rejected a death sentence proposed for the leader of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and 13 associates for murder and violence, but was asked by a court on Thursday to reconsider, Reuters reports.
Mohammed Badie, the Brotherhood’s supreme guide, and the other defendants were sentenced on June 19, but Egyptian law requires any capital sentence to be referred to Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam, Egypt’s highest Islamic legal official, for an opinion before any execution can take place.
The Mufti’s reports are not normally made public, but one of the three judges in the case said the Mufti had stated that “the investigations and evidence were not enough to carry out the death sentence”.
In a move unprecedented in the history of Egyptian law, the court asked the Mufti to reconsider and adjourned the hearing, in which it was due to either uphold or strike down the original sentence, until August 30.
“The Mufti did not give a religious opinion but interfered in the court’s domain by evaluating the evidence of the case,” the judge said, according to Reuters.
Badie has in the past called for a jihad (holy war) to liberate Jerusalem from Israeli rule. A recently released video of him shows him telling the court that his movement was not against Egypt but only against the Jews.
Since the military ousted the Muslim Brotherhood’s president, Mohammed Morsi last year, there has been a crackdown on the movement and it has been declared a terrorist group.
Several thousand Brotherhood leaders and members have been arrested, many on terrorism charges, since Morsi’s overthrow.
Proposed death sentences against more than a thousand of these have triggered outrage among Western governments and human rights groups, who have condemned the hurried way in which the courts have reached such serious verdicts.
No execution has yet been carried out, and hundreds are awaiting the Mufti’s opinion, noted Reuters.