Muslim Brotherhood supporters
Muslim Brotherhood supportersReuters

An Egyptian disciplinary court on Saturday ordered 41 judges into compulsory retirement for supporting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, judicial sources said, according to the Reuters news agency.

The Disciplinary Council headed by Nabil Zaki, a judge, did not immediately release the reason for its decision, but the judicial sources said 31 of the judges were sent into compulsory retirement for signing a statement condemning the removal of former Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi.

Another 10 were removed from their posts for joining the "Judges for Egypt" group, which supported the Brotherhood even before Morsi’s removal, according to the sources quoted by Reuters.

Egyptian law prohibits judges from engaging in politics, but critics and human rights groups say the judicial disciplinary court has turned a blind eye to judges who openly support the government of current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who was elected last year.

The government says the judiciary is independent and it never intervenes in its work.

"The decision is shocking and it is a massacre of the judges," Ahmed El-Khatib, one of the punished judges, told Reuters. He made no comment about whether he supported the Brotherhood.

The judges have the right to appeal the decision.

The move part of the current Egyptian government’s crackdown on the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, with thousands of Brotherhood supporters having been jailed since Morsi’s ouster in the summer of 2013.

The government has banned the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, and Sisi says it is a threat to national security. The group says it is committed to peaceful activism.

As well, Egyptian courts have sentenced hundreds of alleged Brotherhood supporters to death in recent months, many in mass trials condemned by foreign governments and rights groups as violating international law.