CAIRO – An Egyptian court Saturday sentenced the country's first freely elected leader, ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, to death for a mass prison break during the 2011 uprising that eventually brought him to power.
The ruling applies to another 120 people, and is the latest in a series of mass death sentences handed down since the military overthrew Morsi nearly two years ago. It will likely further polarize Egypt, a longtime U.S. ally grappling with an Islamist insurgency that has intensified since Morsi's ouster.
In what appears to be the first violent response to the ruling, suspected Islamic militants gunned down three judges and their driver in the northern Sinai Peninsula city of Al-Arish, according to security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Egypt's judiciary has come under mounting international criticism since Morsi's ouster as it has handed down harsh mass sentences to Islamists and jailed secular activists for protesting. At the same time, the courts have acquitted or given light sentences to top officials who served under President Hosni Mubarak, whose nearly 30-year reign was ended by the 2011 Arab Spring-inspired uprising.
"These sentences are yet another manifestation of the deeply troubling way the Egyptian judiciary has been used as a tool to settle political disagreements," Emad Shahin, a professor who was sentenced to death in absentia, wrote in a Facebook post.