|Geann Pineda |||Apr 22, 2015 07:54 AM EDT|
(Photo : Reuters) Ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi is seen behind bars during his trial at a court in Cairo May 8, 2014.
An Egyptian court on Tuesday sentenced Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi to 20 years in prison without parole for the killing of protesters during demonstrations in 2012.
Morsi was convicted of masterminding the arrest and torture of protesters during demonstrations while he was still president. Fourteen others who were also convicted of the same charges face equal jail time of 20 years.
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The court had acquitted Morsi and the other defendants of inciting murder linked to the deaths of a journalist and two other activists who led the demonstrations outside the presidential palace in December 2012. That charge carries the death penalty.
Human rights group Amnesty International branded the sentence as a "travesty of justice" and called for a retrial or the ex-president's release. The London-based group demands Morsi to be retried in a civilian court following international standards.
"This verdict shatters any remaining illusion of independence and impartiality in Egypt's criminal justice system," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty's deputy Middle East and North Africa director.
The United States for its part was more careful with its statements, saying it was "concerned by the sentences." The U.S. did not elaborate on whether or not the sentence would have an impact on US-Egypt relations.
"Mr. Morsi, like all other defendants, must be afforded the basic legal right of due process. And the United States continues to be strongly opposed to politicized arrests and detentions," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood branded the sentence as a political verdict. This was echoed by some members of the academe, saying Egypt's judiciary had been deeply politicized.
Abdullah al-Arian, a professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service said, the handing down of the verdict was carefully planned. Arian said Morsi had served the maximum time allowed to a person to be detained. Should the courts fail to reach a verdict, they may have to release him.
Morsi, clad in prison uniform, stood in a soundproof cage and raised his arms just as the verdict was announced.
Morsi's camp plans to file an appeal.
Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected leader, came to power in 2011, following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.
A year later, Morsi was ousted by former Army chief, now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in a series of massive street protests.
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