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Egypt: Court upholds 'Hamas collaboration' charges against Brotherhood leaders

Life sentences upheld against Mohamed Badie and other Brotherhood leaders over accusations of collaborating with the Palestinian group to destabilise Egypt
Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie (C-bottom) gestures from behind the defendants' cage at his trial, where he appeared along with ousted president Mohamed Morsi (unseen), in Cairo on 16 June 2015 (AFP)

An Egypt court has upheld jail sentences for several Muslim Brotherhood leaders on charges of "collaborating with Hamas", throwing out an appeal even as relations between the country and the Palestinian group have continued to improve in recent months.

The Egyptian Court of Cassation on Wednesday rejected appeals by Mohamed Badie - the highest-ranking leader of the Brotherhood - his deputy Khairat El-Shater and others, upholding their life sentences over accusations of working with foreign organisations to destabilise national security and stability. The ruling is now final and cannot be appealed.

Badie was sentenced to life imprisonment in several other cases in 2013.

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The cassation court added that the case against political leader Essam el-Erian had been terminated owing to his death in 2020.

Seven defendants, including the Brotherhood's former international spokesperson, Gehad el-Haddad, were acquitted.

The verdict against the Brotherhood leaders was issued by the Cairo Criminal Court in September 2019 after a retrial. The case was initiated in 2014, a year after former President Mohamed Morsi was overthrown by his successor Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in a military coup. 

Sisi has since overseen a crackdown on his opposition from across the political spectrum. The Brotherhood, the country's largest opposition group, has since been outlawed and its members and supporters either jailed or excluded from public life. 

In June, the cassation court upheld death sentences on 12 members of the Brotherhood, including two senior leaders of the group. Rights groups have warned that the death penalty could be carried out imminently. 

A tense relationship

Egypt's relationship with Hamas has been tumultuous - though the Egyptian government has aided Israel in its blockade of the Gaza Strip since Hamas took control in 2007, it has also often acted as a mediator during times of conflict.

Since Sisi took power in Egypt in 2013, he has pursued a generally harsh policy against Hamas, viewing them as allies of the Brotherhood.

However, in recent years relations have begun to thaw, with Hamas collaborating with Egypt in tackling the Islamic State group's insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt has also allowed diplomatic relations to resume.

On 18 May, Sisi pledged $500m to help the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip in the wake of an Israeli assault on the enclave. Egyptian construction equipment began entering the strip in early June to help with the effort.

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