World Bulletin/News Desk
An Egyptian court has recommended the death sentence for the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and 682 supporters, and handed down a final capital punishment ruling for 37 others, judicial sources said.
Seeking the death penalty for Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood's general guide, is certain to raise tension in Egypt which has been gripped by turmoil since the army removed the Brotherhood from power last year.
The 37 death sentences were part of a final judgement on 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters who were sentenced to death last month. The remaining defendants were sentenced to life in jail.
Death sentence recommendations in the case involving Badie will be passed on to Egypt's Mufti, the highest religious authority. His opinion is not legally binding and can be ignored by the court.
The biggest trials in Egypt's modern history have reinforced fears among human rights groups that the military-backed government and anti-Islamist judges are bent on crushing dissent.
"The decisions are possibly the largest possible death sentences in recent world history. While they're exceptional in scale, they're certainly not exceptional in kind," said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director for Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch.
"It seems that these sentences are aimed at striking fear and terror into the hearts of those who oppose the interim government including the interim government."
The rulings can be appealed. Many defendants are on the run.
Policemen used teargas on Monday to disperse students at Al-Azhar University in eastern Cairo protesting against a decision by a court in the Upper Egyptian province of Minya to sentence 37 supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi to death.
Eyewitnesses said policemen deployed on the university campus fired teargas on the students as soon as they gathered for a march near the Faculty of Agriculture on the university's campus.
Confrontations then erupted between the protesting students and policemen on the campus.
Eyewitnesses said the students pelted policemen with stones and blocked the nearby Mustafa al-Nahas Street, disrupting traffic in the area.
Elsewhere, students also protested at Minya University in central Egypt against the rulings, before security forces used teargas to disperse the crowd, eyewitnesses said.
The residents of Dalga village in southern Minya also staged a march against the verdicts, eyewitnesses said.
The court set June 21 to issue its verdicts against the 683 defendants.
Egypt's army-backed authorities have launched a massive crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood since elected president Mohamed Morsi's ouster by the army last July.
In the eight months since, thousands of the groups' members and sympathizers have been arrested.
Five people are killed when Russian warplanes strike targets in opposition-held area of Syria's northwestern Idlib province
At least 180,879 civilians have been killed by the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria since March 2011, Syrian Network for Human Rights says
Saudi Arabia has long been deeply suspicious of Hezbollah, a close ally of its regional rival Iran
Thousands of Turkmen reportedly displaced by ongoing assaults by regime and Russian warplanes in Syria's predominantly-Turkmen Bayirbucak region
A dozen people killed in separate bombings and shooting attacks across war-torn Iraq, local sources report
'Next week, I expect to provide my final assessment on all past and present outstanding issues,' International Atomic Energy Agency head Yukiya Amano says
Syrian Network for Human Rights says 20,000 women have been killed in the Syrian conflict, wıth almost 95 percent of them by Assad regime
Regime offensive comes one day after Turkmen fighters retook control of Kizildag town
Russian planes have carried out at least 12 strikes in the area where Turkey downed their fighter jet
The second pilot who ejected from the fighter jet shot by Turkish forces has been picked up by the Syrian army
Sources report that first pilot was killed by opposition forces who shot at him as he landed after ejecting from the plane
Turkish reports say incident happened in border area between Turkey's southern Hatay province and an area in northwest Syria populated by the Turkic-speaking Turkmen minority
Twin attacks target hotel housing judges tasked with overseeing Egypt’s parliamentary polls
Turkey has condemned the ruthless attacks by Russia and have sent a letter to the UN expressing grave concern about attacks in Bayirbucak Turkmen area in northwestern Syria
Iran calls for international investment as it seeks a greater share of the world's gas market
Russia and Iran have 'unity of views' on Syria, a spokesman for Kremlin says after President Putin held talks in Tehran with supreme leader Khamenei