Mass death sentence for Muslim Brotherhood supporters

Brotherhood leader among 683 men facing death sentence

An Egyptian court has recommended the death sentence for 683 members of the Muslim Brotherhood including Mohamed Badie, the leader of the outlawed movement, at a mass trial on 28 April.

The defendants faced charges over a 2013 attack on a police station in Minya, 250km south of Cairo, in which a policeman was killed. Badie's case has been referred to Egypt's grand mufti, the country's highest Islamist authority, with a final decision in June, according to reports from the BBC.

In a separate ruling the court passed final death sentences on 37 of the 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters who were condemned to death last month. The remaining defendants were sentenced to life in jail. The court also banned the April 6 pro-democracy party, whose leader was sent to jail for three years in December.

The ruling has caused widespread criticism from human rights groups and the United Nations, and marks a continued escalation in the interim government's crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Thousands of its supporters have been jailed since the military removed the country's Islamist president Mohammed Morsi from power last July. Then in December the government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, a charge it denies.

Morsi himself faces four separate trials, on charges including inciting the killing of protesters outside the presidential palace in December 2012, following a decree that awarded him sweeping powers.