Muslim Brotherhood supporters
Muslim Brotherhood supportersReuters

An Egyptian court's decision to sentence 14 men to death and jail 37 others accused of ties to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood was "politically motivated" and "blatantly unjust", Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Sunday, according to Reuters.

The group’s statement comes a day after the court condemned Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie and 13 other senior members of the group to death on Saturday.

American-Egyptian Mohamed Soltan, the son of a Brotherhood preacher who received a death sentence at the same hearing, was among those sentenced to life in jail.

The men were among thousands of people detained after Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood was toppled in 2013 by the military under Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is now president.

Since the Egyptian army ousted Morsi, there has been a crackdown on Brotherhood supporters in the country.

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.

Several weeks ago, Egypt's top prosecutor named 18 Muslim Brotherhood members, including Badie and his deputy, as terrorists, after they were convicted of orchestrating violence in 2013 that killed 11 people and wounded over 90.

The White House has condemned the verdict against Soltan, who was found guilty of supporting the veteran Islamist movement and transmitting false news, according to Reuters.

Saturday's case was known in local media as "The Rabaa Operations Room" trial in reference to a sit-in at Rabaa square in 2013 in which hundreds of people protesting Morsi’s ouster were killed when security forces tried to clear the area by force.

Cairo defended its actions, saying it had given protesters the opportunity to leave peacefully and that armed elements within the Brotherhood initiated the violence.

"It appears that the case against Muslim Brotherhood members leading to death sentences of 14 men is politically motivated," Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's executive director for the Middle East and North Africa, calling it a "a sham proceeding".

"The fact that those who publicized the mass killings of 2013 could go to prison for life while those who did the killings receive official accolades perfectly symbolizes the abject failure of transitional justice in Egypt," she said, according to Reuters.

The verdicts can be appealed in Egypt's highest civilian court.

HRW also criticized a recent U.S. decision to end a freeze on military aid to Cairo at the same time as the Egypt judiciary had been passing sentences against journalists and the political opposition.