CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptian authorities have failed to tell the Muslim Brotherhood the charges on which 25 members have been sentenced, two days after a military court jailed them for up to 10 years, the group and its lawyer said on Thursday.
Khairat el-Shatir, third-in-command of Egypt’s strongest opposition group, was sentenced on Tuesday to seven years in jail while a member of the group’s governing guidance council received a three-year term. Another 15 men were acquitted.
Barred from the court when the rulings were read, defence lawyer Abdel Moniem Abdel Maqsoud said a security officer informed him of the sentences but no details of the verdicts, including who was convicted on which charges, were provided.
“They prevented any lawyer from entering, or anyone from the media or anyone from the families of the accused,” he told Reuters. “We only know the sentences.”
Abdel Maqsoud said he had requested a detailed copy of the ruling on Wednesday, but had not received a response.
It can take several weeks in Egypt for civilian courts to issue detailed written rulings, but it is rare for lawyers to be barred from the reading of a verdict or to not be informed which charges resulted in conviction or jail time.
The 40 men, from Brotherhood officials to university professors and businessmen, at first faced charges including terrorism and money laundering.
But the charges were later reported dropped, leaving lesser charges including membership in a banned group — an accusation the government regularly uses to justify Islamist detentions, but which rarely leads to formal charges.
The Brotherhood, which holds a fifth of parliament’s seats through members who ran as independents, has borne the brunt of a government crackdown that began more than a year ago and has also netted bloggers and activists opposed to the government.
Cairo-based political analyst Diaa Rashwan said the uncertainty over the verdicts may reflect a government debate on how to deal with the Brotherhood, which seeks an Islamic state through non-violent and democratic means.
While Brotherhood officials have said the terrorism and money laundering charges were dropped, there has been no formal announcement of this by the court, leading some observers to speculate that the charges could resurface.
The trial marked the first time Brotherhood members have faced military justice since 2001. Five members were sentenced to 10 years in jail, two received seven, and the remainder received terms of three to five years.
Rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticised the sentences.