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Prison Break Case

Court / Presiding Judge

First Review: Cairo Criminal Court/Judge Shaaban al-Shami
Second Review: Cairo Criminal Court/Judge Muhammad Fahmy

Procedural History

On May 16, 2015, the court referred the death sentences in the case to the Mufti. The death sentences were confirmed on June 16, 2015. On November 15, 2016, the court ordered a retrial for 26 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Muhammad Morsi.


In the first review of this case, former president Muhammad Morsi; Supreme Guide Muhammad Badie; Deputy Supreme Guide Mahmoud Ezzat; and former parliamentary speaker and guidance bureau members Muhammad al-Beltagy, Essam al-Erian, and Saad al-Husseiny were sentenced to death. Twenty-one defendants received life sentences. Ninety-three defendants were tried in absentia and received death sentences. Since then, 26 of the sentences (including that of Morsi) have been vacated and a retrial has been ordered; the retrial is ongoing.

Summary of Reasoning

This case dates back to the mass escape that occurred at Wadi Natroun Prison during the early days of the January 25 Revolution and enabled several Muslim Brotherhood leaders and various other detainees to escape from prison. The defendants faced charges of storming prisons, assisting the escape of convicts and looting of weapons, murder, and attempted murder of police officers. The prosecution relied on the testimony of 43 people, most of them Interior Ministry security officers. When reading out the final verdict in the case of first review, the judge in the case stated: “The court panel has unanimously agreed that there is no room for leniency or mercy for the defendants."

Anecdotal Notes

In response to the initial verdict, Hamas issued a statement in which it criticized the verdicts and stated that some of the defendants who were sentenced in the case had actually been killed before the revolution or had been detained in prison in Israel for dozens of years, thus making their participation in the alleged crimes impossible. The European Union had criticized the first trial as “flawed" and referred to the punishment as “cruel and inhumane."

Legal & Judicial Implications

During the investigatory period of the case, former president Morsi was kept incommunicado and reportedly not granted access to a lawyer, thus raising questions on the due process violations at stake. The initial significant sentences against former president Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders also raised questions on the discrepancy for accountability for crimes committed by Brotherhood leaders as opposed to Mubarak officials.