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An Egyptian court has sentenced to death 10 members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group for coordinating and planning attacks on the police, the state-news agency MENA has reported.

The identities of the defendants were not revealed and it was not possible to determine how they had pleaded to the charges.

Nine were in custody while one was sentenced in absentia, a judicial source was cited as saying on Sunday by the AFP news agency.

The verdict will now be referred to the Grand Mufti, Egypt’s top theological authority – a formality in death penalty cases – before the court meets on June 19 to confirm the sentences.

The 10 who were sentenced to death had formed a group called “Helwan Brigades”, MENA said, in reference to a city south of Cairo. They were part of a broader plot to attack police targets in the Cairo area with the aim to topple the government, it added.

Capital punishment for civilian convicts in Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, is carried out by hanging.

According to Amnesty International, Egypt carried out the third highest number of known executions in the world last year, after China and Iran.

Cairo’s handing down of death sentences, or long jail terms after mass trials, have drawn condemnation from the United Nations and rights groups including Amnesty.

On Friday, the Biden administration announced that it would cancel $130m in military aid to Egypt over human rights concerns, just days after the United States approved a huge $2.5bn arms sale to the country.

The State Department said on Friday that Egypt had not met the conditions to receive the $130m in foreign military financing that has been on hold since September.

Crackdown on the Brotherhood

Egypt has mounted one of the biggest crackdowns in its modern history on the Brotherhood following the army’s overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first freely-elected president, in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.

Morsi died in custody in June 2019 after falling ill during a court hearing.

The government considers the Brotherhood a “terrorist” organisation. The group has long said it is committed to peaceful change.

Founded in 1928 in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has established itself as the main opposition movement in Egypt despite decades of repression, and has inspired spinoff movements and political parties across the Muslim world.

But it remains banned in several countries including Egypt for its alleged links to armed activity.

This content was originally published here.

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