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Egyptian Court Cancels Life Sentence For Former President Morsi

FILE - Former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, wearing a red jumpsuit that designates he has been sentenced to death, raises his hands inside a defendants cage in a makeshift courtroom at the national police academy, in an eastern suburb of Cairo.
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The top appeals court in Egypt overturned life sentences against former Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi and officials of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The court cancelled the second of two life sentences against the former president. A death sentence against Morsi had been overturned by the same court a week before in the middle of November.

The overturned charges include accusations of spying for the militant group Hamas.

Abdel Moneim Abdel Maksoud is a lawyer for the Muslim Brotherhood. The group has been outlawed in Egypt. He told the French news agency AFP he believes the court's decision was fair because, in his words, "the (first) verdict was full of legal flaws."

The former president and his associates will be retried in the two cases that were overturned. Morsi must still serve a 20-year sentence for his part in the detention and torture of protestors outside the presidential palace in 2012.

Political Pressure and Government Crackdown

Morsi became Egypt’s first democratically elected president in 2012. But, he was arrested after being ousted by the Egyptian military in 2013. Former Defense Minister Abdel Fattah Al Sisi then took power.

Since then, thousands of officials and supporters of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have faced trials.

The Sisi government's crackdown drew criticism from around the world. Human rights groups have accused Sisi of ordering imprisonment and executions for political reasons.

Sisi has denied having influence over Egypt’s courts, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal. Many rulings have been overturned in the past two years, but many people are still serving sentences or are awaiting trial.

Said Sadek is an Egyptian political expert. He told VOA that the easing of sentences against Muslim Brotherhood officials may have been influenced by the U.S. presidential election.

Sadek says the Egyptian government may believe it can deal with the situation.

"They feel now that they are strong enough to do whatever they want, as long as it doesn't lead to any provocations," he says.

However, Sadek says he does not believe that the series of retrials will lead to acquittals soon:

“The legitimacy of (President Abdel Fattah al Sisi’s) regime depends on fighting terrorism, so acquitting Muslim Brotherhood leaders would be counter-productive to this strategy, for the time being,” he said.

I’m John Russell.

Edward Yeranian wrote this story for VOA News. John Russell adapted this story for Learning English with additional information from the Wall Street Journal. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

overturn – v. to decide that (a ruling, decision, etc.) is wrong and change it definition

verdict – n. the decision made by a jury in a trial

retry – v. to judge (a court case) for a second time

crackdown – n. a serious attempt to punish people for doing something that is not allowed

retrial – n. a second trial in a court of law in order to make a new judgment on a case that has been judged before

acquittal – n. the act of deciding that a person is not guilty of a crime