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Egyptian Court Holds Second Mass Trial of Brotherhood Members

The leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and nearly 700 members of the group went on trial Tuesday on charges including murder and inciting violence.

The trial of Mohamed Badie and the others comes a day after the same court in Minya sentenced 529 Brotherhood members to death. They had been charged with murdering a police officer, attacking a police station and other acts of violence.

That first trial took just two days, drawing international criticism over whether the proceedings were fair.

In Geneva Tuesday, a U.N. official said a mass trial of 529 people conducted over two days could not have met the most basic requirements for a fair proceeding. Rupert Coville, a spokesman for the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said the trial was "rife with procedural irregularities" and "in breach of international human rights law."

Saba Mahmoud, associate professor of anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley, told VOA on Tuesday that there is no due process in Egypt, and called the sentencing "ridiculous."

"You can take even perhaps elements from that crowd who may have broken the law and so on, but to actually sentence close to 530 people, 529 to be precise, nowhere can be defended legally. Most of the people who have been arrested are being tried in military courts and security courts under the emergency law in the country. They're not being given a fair trial."

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the United States was "deeply concerned" and "pretty shocked" after Monday's decision.

"Obviously the defendants can appeal, but it simply does not seem possible that a fair review of evidence and testimony, consistent with international standards, could be accomplished with over 529 defendants in a two-day trial. It sort of defies logic."

She said the U.S. has continued to urge Egypt to make sure detainees are given fair proceedings, and that politically motivated judicial actions only serve to reverse Egypt's democratic transition.

Mahmoud told VOA the Egyptian military's violations of civil liberties have not pushed the U.S. government to say such behavior must stop or else it will withdraw aid.

"I think the State Department reaction throughout this process has been completely muted. We must remember that Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. military and socioeconomic aid after Israel in the region. And the United States has an enormous influence in how Egyptian politics is conducted. Ever since the overthrow of the Morsi government, the writing has been on the wall."

The charges in the two trials are related to clashes in Minya last August. That violence erupted after security forces in Cairo broke up two Brotherhood protest camps, leaving hundreds of people dead.

They were protesting the army's ouster of president Mohamed Morsi, a Brotherhood member who has been in custody since he was removed from office in July and is facing several trials himself.

Egypt's interim authorities have cracked down on the Brotherhood, labeling it a terrorist group and arresting many of its leaders.

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