Middle East

Egypt overturns death sentences for 149 Muslim Brotherhood supporters

Egyptian armed policemen sit at the back of a truck as they patrol the village of Kerdassah in the district of Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo, on September 19, 2013. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Egyptian security forces have often clashed with Muslim Brotherhood supporters in their stronghold of Kerdasa

An Egyptian court has overturned the death sentences of 149 supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group and ordered a retrial.

The defendants were convicted of carrying out a 2013 attack on a police station in Kerdasa, near Cairo, in which at least 11 officers were killed.

Egypt has cracked down on Islamists since the army overthrew President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

Hundreds of his supporters have been sentenced to death in mass trials.

The trials drew widespread criticism from human rights groups and the UN.

Morsi, who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, was deposed after mass protests against his rule.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Morsi was convicted of espionage and detention of protesters, but still faces trial for fraud and endangering national security

On 14 August 2013, Egyptian security forces broke up protest camps set up by Brotherhood supporters, leaving hundreds dead.

On the same day, people attacked police stations in Kerdasa and Minya, killing at least 13 officers.

About 40 Coptic churches were also destroyed in a wave of attacks.

A total of 188 people were convicted of the Kerdasa attack, but many were sentenced in absentia, and would need to hand themselves in to receive a retrial.

Former armed forces chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi led the overthrow and was later elected president.

Since then, more than 1,000 people have been killed and 40,000 are believed to have been jailed in a crackdown on Islamists.

Most of them have been supporters of the Brotherhood, which was banned in 2013, but secular and liberal activists have also been prosecuted for breaking a 2013 anti-protest law.