Military-led Egypt intensified its crackdown on dissidents Monday, with courts upholding hundreds of death sentences for Islamists and banning a youth group that was at the forefront of the 2011 uprising that brought down U.S.-backed strongman Hosni Mubarak.
The decisions against members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the April 6 Youth Movement come while Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy is in Washington for a high-profile visit amid signs of a thaw in recently frosty U.S.-Egyptian relations. Last week, the Obama administration signaled that it was ready to restore a billion-dollar aid package for Egypt, though officials expressed concern that Cairo was backtracking on promises to move toward democratic reform.
Monday's developments in Cairo mean that foreign minister Fahmy is sure to face some tough questions at an appearance in Washington. The event will be livestreamed here.
Here's the Cairo-based Ahram Online news site with more on the rulings:
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A court in Minya has passed death sentences on 683 supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi, including leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Islamist group's Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie was among the defendants found guilty of attacking Adawa police station and killing a police officer, Mamdouh Kotb Mohamed Kotb, on 14 August 2013 -- following the dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins at Rabaa and Nahda squares. They were also found guilty of committing violence, rioting, destroying public and private property, attacking police officers, and inciting violence.
The verdicts must be ratified by the grand mufti before they can be carried out. The court has set 21 June for the final verdict to be passed, after the grand mufti has made his assessment. The law allows the verdicts to be appealed.
The same judge sentenced 529 people to death in March. On Monday, he confirmed 37 of the death sentences and commuted 492 others to life imprisonment upon the instructions of the grand mufti.
And here's Ahram Online with reaction from the April 6 Youth Movement:
In a statement released after the court order, April 6 said that it wasn't "just a movement, but an idea" and "an important aspect of this generation's voice and dream."
"We will keep going with our activities and views the way we want," the statement added.
In their statement, April 6 affirmed that their movement has been committed to peaceful activism and means of expression, stressing that they have been reluctant to request permits for their recent protests out of the belief that "it is the right for any human being to express his views as long as it's being done peacefully".
April 6 along with other political forces have recently mobilised against a controversial protest law that has sent many non-Islamist activists behind bars, including the movement's founders Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel.
"The group's main goal is to oppose any action made by the ruling regime which sabotages the state," said the statement.