Mahmoud Ezzat, acting head of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has been found guilty of “terror” charges and sentenced to life in prison, Egyptian state media reported on Thursday.
A judicial source cited by Reuters news agency said the senior leader of the Islamist group was found guilty of inciting violence and the supply of weapons during clashes outside the Muslim Brotherhood’s headquarters in 2013.
Ezzat is the acting supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, and he joins other seniors members of the group, who have also been sentenced to life in prison in the same legal proceedings.
His lawyer made no comment, but the Brotherhood, a religious political group set up in 1928, said following his arrest that Ezzat had been pursued on “false political charges”.
Mohamed Soudan, foreign affairs secretary of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, told RFI that it was “thugs supported by security forces who attacked the headquarters in Cairo”.
“And after the coup they turned the truth upside down and they accuse the Muslim Brotherhood of defending their own building,” said Soudan, speaking from exile, adding that members of the group had been killed by “the thugs and security forces”, before they set the building ablaze.
Ezzat had already been convicted of “terror”-related crimes and was sentenced to death in absentia twice. He was retried after his arrest, as provided for by the law in Egypt.
Egypt’s military government led by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has pursued top leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood since the army overthrew Egypt’s first democratically elected government of Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
Morsi came to power through elections in the aftermath of the uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak, however, his rule proved to be divisive.
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Clashes occured between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and activists protesting against Morsi’s presidency amid accusations of increased authoritarianism and claims that the Muslim Brotherhood was pursuing an Islamist agenda.
The army stepped in and Morsi, as well as other senior Muslim Brotherhood figures, were arrested. An interim president was appointed, before el-Sisi won a landslide victory in 2014 polls. Morsi later died during his trial.
Ezzat was arrested last summer when police found him holed up in a flat in Cairo’s outskirts.
The authorities said a search of the property yielded computers and mobile phones with encryption software, enabling the Muslim Brotherhood to communicate. Police also said documents outlining “destructive plans” were discovered.
On the run since summer 2013 following Morsi’s removal, the 76-year-old was thought to have left Egypt following the purge against their group.
He was seen by many as an important former deputy to Muslim Brotherhood chief Mohamed Badie, and thought to be a hardliner. He was promoted to acting leader after Badie’s arrest in 2013.