[JURIST] An Egyptian court on Wednesday sentenced 12 men to death for the murder of former Deputy Director of Giza Security Nabil Farrag. The defendants were charged with the formation of an illegal militant group, the murder of the police chief and attacking police and armed forces, Christians and local churches. The convicted men were all alleged supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood [BBC backgrounder] and ousted president Mohamed Morsi [BBC profile]. Farrag was killed in September as police and armed forces invaded the city of Kerdasa, as city that allegedly a center for Islamist groups continuing to support former president Morsi since his July ouster. Only seven of the defendants were present when the judge read the ruling, with the other five currently on the run. The rulings must be approved by the Grand Mufti before they become official, as this is a requirement in Egypt as a judicial measure.
The Egyptian military and new government have heavily cracked down on supporters of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, having jailed approximately 15,000 individuals since his ouster in July. In April Egyptian courts convicted [JURIST report] more than 50 supporters of the former president on charges including violence and rioting. In March the most notable sentencing occurred when 529 alleged Morsi supporters were collectively sentenced [JURIST report] to death in one controversial judicial proceeding. That sentencing was heavily criticized [JURIST report] by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, claiming it illustrates the lengths to which Egypt's courts have been politicized and due process has been ignored during a crackdown on Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood. Two more Morsi supporters were independently sentenced [JURIST report] to death in March as well. Critics of these harsh sentences have pointed to examples of disparate treatment unfairly targeting Islamists, such as the sentencing [JURIST report] of several police officers involved in the deaths of 37 Morsi supporters to single-year suspended sentences.