CAIRO — Former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was sentenced to 20 years in jail Tuesday on charges relating to the deaths of protesters outside his palace.
The Islamist was the country’s first democratically elected leader. He was overthrown by the military in 2013 following demonstrations by millions of people calling on him to leave office.
The Cairo Criminal Court issued the verdict as Morsi and other defendants in the case — mostly Muslim Brotherhood leaders — stood in a soundproof glass cage inside a makeshift courtroom at Egypt's national police academy. It was also televised on Egypt's state broadcaster.
Judge Ahmed Youssef dropped murder charges against Morsi and the other defendants and said the sentence was for a "show of force" and unlawful detentions relating to deadly clashes during protests outside the presidential palace in December 2012.
The demonstrations saw thousands protest Morsi’s decision to expand his presidential powers. As many as 10 people died in the ensuing clashes, and prosecutors argued Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders were responsible.
Displaying a four-finger salute symbolizing resistance to the state's crackdown on Islamists, the defendants chanted "God is Greatest," Reuters reported.
The former president and 12 other Muslim Brotherhood members were sentenced to 20 years in prison and five years supervision once they are released. Two other defendants were charged with 10 years in prison also followed by five years supervision.
A senior figure from the Muslim Brotherhood said after the sentencing that it was a "travesty of justice." Amr Darrag, a former minister under Morsi, said in a statement that the case had been "scripted and controlled by the government and entirely unsupported by evidence."
He added: "They want to pass a life sentence for democracy in Egypt."
Although the verdict may be appealed, Morsi faces several other trials along with thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members.
He was elected in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring protests which resulted in the ouster of autocratic longtime President Hosni Mubarak.
In January, Egypt’s high court overturned 86-year-old Mubarak’s only remaining conviction, an allegation of embezzling public funds, and ordered a retrial.
At the time of the decision, the former strongman was still in the military hospital where he had been serving his sentence because of ill health, according to Reuters.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.