Egypt sentences six to death in document leak case involving Morsi

An Egyptian court Saturday handed down preliminary death sentences to six defendants on charges of leaking secret state documents to Qatar in a case involving deposed Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.

Morsi was not among the six convicts, who include two employees for the Qatari television network Al Jazeera.

The Cairo Criminal Court set June 18 for issuing a verdict for Morsi and four other defendants in the same case.

Saturday's sentences have been referred to the country's chief Islamic legal authority, the grand mufti, for a non-binding opinion, as required by Egyptian law.

All 11 defendants are accused of jeopardizing national security by allegedly leaking state documents to Qatar when Morsi was in office.

Qatar is a key ally of Morsi's now banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Al Jazeera said that two among those condemned to death on Saturday were members of its crew.

They are identified as Ibrahim Hilal, an Egyptian national working as news editor, and Alaa Sablan, a Jordanian news producer.

Both were tried in absentia and are still outside Egypt, according to Egyptian prosecutors.

Al Jazeera condemned the verdict.

"This is a black day in the history of journalism," Al Jazeera's director Yasser Abu Helala said, according to the website of the Doha-based broadcaster.

Egyptian government officials have repeatedly accused Al Jazeera of bias to Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, an accusation denied by the broadcaster.

Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president, was deposed by the military in 2013 following mass protests against his rule.

In June 2015, another court sentenced him to death after convicting him of involvement in a mass prison escape during Egypt's 2011 uprising. This sentence is subject to appeal.

The court also handed him a life imprisonment on charges of conspiring with foreign organizations in conducting the jailbreak.

Several senior leaders in the Muslim Brotherhood and their followers have been sentenced to death in different cases since Morsi's toppling.

The Islamist group has dismissed the sentences and other harsh verdicts as politically motivated.

The Egyptian government has repeatedly said that the country's courts operate independently.

Last update: Sat, 07/05/2016 - 17:36

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