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Subject to appeal, 75 to die in Egypt over 2013 uprising

An Egyptian court sentenced 75 people to death on Saturday, including top figures of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, for their involvement in a 2013 sit-in, state media reported

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An Egyptian court sentenced 75 people to death on Saturday, including top figures of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, for their involvement in a 2013 sit-in, state media reported.

The Cairo Criminal Court referred the sentences to the Grand Mufti — the country’s top theological authority — for his non-binding opinion as is the norm in capital cases. Though non-binding, the formality gives a window of opportunity for a judge to reverse an initial sentence.

The sentences are subject to appeal.

Sentencing for more than 660 others involved in the case was scheduled for Sept. 8, the Al-Ahram news website reported. Those sentences, too, are subject to appeal.

Of the 75 defendants referred to the Mufti, 44 are jailed and 31 are at large. The court normally hands down the maximum sentence for fugitives but a re-retrial is typically held after they are caught.

The case involves a total 739 defendants, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie and photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid. The charges range from murder to damaging public property. Neither Badie nor Abu Zeid were sentenced to death in this case.

The 2013 sit-in, in Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in Cairo, supported former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi who was militarily ousted following mass protests against his divisive one-year rule. Morsi hailed from the Brotherhood.

The sit-in was violently dispersed on Aug. 14, 2013. More than 600 people were killed. Months later, Egypt designated the Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

Egyptian authorities have since launched a severe crackdown on Brotherhood members and supporters, arresting many and trying them on terror-related charges.

Read Also: Cote d’Ivoire government faces collapse in coalition row

Egyptian courts have held mass trials and handed down death sentences for hundreds of people, drawing international condemnation.

In 2014, an Egyptian judge sentenced 529 of Morsi’s supporters to death. A retrial was later ordered after several proceedings.

Rights groups have repeatedly criticized such mass sentencings in Egypt and called on authorities to ensure fair trials.

International rights groups also denounced the mass trial of the 2013 sit-in. Amnesty International described it in a statement last month as a “grotesque parody of justice” and called on authorities to drop all charges against those arrested for protesting peacefully.

Politics

Tunisia-US relations develop cracks, no thanks to President Saied’s ‘one-man’ rule

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The once chummy relations between Tunisia and the United States is gradually developing serious cracks as a result of President Kais Saied drifting into a one-man authoritarian rule.

Before the rift, the US was Tunisia’s main donors but according to US Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, in a statement on Thursday, Saied’s power grab leaning on an authoritarian government and the “dream of self-government” for the country was in danger.

Austin’s comments is coming on the heels of previous US criticism of Saied in the wake of the adoption of a controversial constitution that further empowers the President and undermines the country’s post-2011 democratic gains.

“Across Africa, those who support democracy and freedom and the rule of law are battling the forces of autocracy, chaos and corruption,” Austin said at a US Africa Command ceremony.

“We can feel those headwinds in Tunisia, where people inspired the world with their demands for democracy,” he said.

The standoff has already seen the US cut back on aids to Tunisia following political instability in the North African country which is gradually sliding towards autocracy and analysts believe the situation could cast a shadow over Tunisia’s quest to obtain a lifeline from the IMF to avert the crumbling of its public finances.

Before the recent condemnation by Austin, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken had also decried Tumis8 drifting into a one-man under Saied.

“Tunisia has experienced an alarming erosion of democratic norms over the past year and reversed many of the Tunisian people’s hard-won gains since 2011,” Blinken had said following the constitution referendum held on July 25.

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Politics

DR Congo’s main opposition leader, Jean-Marc Kabund, arrested

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A main opposition leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jean-Marc Kabund, has been arrested by government forces after he made an alleged uncomplemetary remarks on President Felix Tshisekedi on Tuesday.

Kabund, a former right-hand man of Tshisekedi, fell out with the President and became a prominent opposition leader, was arrested after a controversy raged over a remark about his one-time boss.

Kabund who was a former vice president of parliament had a falling out with President Tshisekedi earlier this year, after which he launched his own political party.

Following the breakup with the incumbent president, Kabund has been under investigation in recent weeks on charges that authorities have not specified, but his lawyers say he is accused of contempt of the head of state after a speech whete he called the President “a danger” to the country.

“They did not respect the procedure. Today they came after the hearing and arrested him despite his parliamentary immunity,” Kabund’s lawyer, Henriette Bongwalanga said after he was arrested.

Kabund was a leading figure behind Tshisekedi’s rise to power but fell out with the President over difference which highlighted fault-lines in the country’s leadership.

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