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Egyptian Court Hands Down 683 Death Sentences

An Egyptian court on Monday sentenced 683 people to die, including the top leader of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

It's the latest mass trial aimed at the Muslim Brotherhood party of ousted President Mohammed Morsi. The defendants were charged with an attack on a police station in the city of Minya last year in which a policeman was killed.

Mohammed Badie, the Brotherhood's spiritual guide, was among those convicted Monday. The Associated Press writes: "If his sentence is confirmed, it would make him the most senior Brotherhood figure sentenced to death since one of the group's leading ideologues, Sayed Qutb, was executed in 1966."

NPR's Leila Fadel reports that the case was heard by the same judge, Said Youssef, who sentenced 529 people to death in March; however, all but 37 of the earlier sentences were commuted by Youssef on Monday.

In March, the U.N. Human Rights office described the mass death sentences "unprecedented in recent history" and the U.S. State Department called them "unconscionable" and as having a "flagrant disregard for basic standards of justice."

The AP reports that:

"Monday's ruling sparked an outcry among families of the defendants outside the court, with women fainting and relatives wailing and crying out 'Why? This is unfair!'"

"'My three sons are inside,' said a woman who only gave her first name, Samiya, as she screamed in grief. 'I have no one but God.'

"Lawyer Ali Kamal, said the hearing lasted only eight minutes. Security forces surrounded the court building and blocked roads, preventing families and media from attending the proceedings."

In a separate ruling Monday, another Egyptian court banned the April 6 youth movement that engineered the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

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