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Egypt: Trial of 683 Muslim Brotherhood supporters adjourned

By Laura Smith-Spark, Kellie Morgan and Heba Fahmy, CNN
updated 1:35 PM EDT, Tue March 25, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Verdict against 683 accused Muslim Brotherhood supporters expected on April 28
  • On Monday, at least 529 supporters of the movement were sentenced to death
  • The cases relate to violent riots in the southern Egyptian city of Minya in August
  • Spiritual leader Mohammed Badie was not among the 62 defendants in court Tuesday

Cairo (CNN) -- The case against the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader Mohammed Badie and 682 other supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsy was adjourned Tuesday at a Egyptian court until next month, defense lawyer Gamal Abdel Meguid said.

It comes a day after the same court sentenced 529 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood to death.

They were convicted on charges related to violent riots in the southern Egyptian city of Minya in August, including the murder of a police officer, the country's official news agency said. Only 147 of the defendants were reportedly in court Monday. Sixteen people were also acquitted at the hearing.

Tuesday's case against another 683 defendants relates to the same unrest.

Sixty-two of Tuesday's accused were in attendance for the proceedings at Minya Criminal Court, Meguid said.

Egypt sentences 529 people to death
Risks and responsibilities of free speech

They had no legal representation in court because defense lawyers boycotted the trial in protest over the death sentences handed down Monday to the 529 Morsy supporters, he said. He was among those boycotting proceedings.

Badie, who is being held in custody in the capital, Cairo, did not attend court Tuesday due to security concerns. A verdict is due to be delivered on April 28.

Will Egypt carry out sentence?

Amnesty International: 'Grotesque move'

Monday's mass sentencing prompted wide criticism, with rights group Amnesty International condemning it as "a grotesque move."

"This is injustice writ large and these death sentences must be quashed," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director for Amnesty International in the Middle East and North Africa.

While Egypt's courts are quick to punish Morsy supporters, Sahraoui said, they "ignore gross human rights violations by the security forces."

The Muslim Brotherhood also issued a statement Monday saying the sentence "violates judicial norms."

However, the head of the Justice Ministry's press office, Abdel Azim el-Ashry, rejected criticism in a statement published by Egypt's State Information Service on Tuesday, saying the court's ruling was not final and that all the defendants have the right to appeal.

He also said the more than 350 defendants sentenced to death in absentia could seek new legal proceedings if they appeared in court.

Students protest death sentences

For the second consecutive day, students held a protest at Minya University against the death sentences handed down Monday.

Omar Abdel Baset, head of the students' union, told CNN that security forces had dispersed Tuesday's demonstration. Several students were injured by pellets that security forces fired at protesters, he said.

The demonstration was in support of three students who are among the defendants in Monday's case.

Last summer's riots in Minya took place after a deadly crackdown by security forces on two large sit-ins in Cairo, where demonstrators were supporting Morsy, the former head of the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm.

Morsy, who was elected president in 2012, was ousted in a coup in July amid widespread protests against his rule, with opponents accusing him of pursuing a divisive and Islamist agenda.

He and other Brotherhood leaders were rounded up after the coup and now face a variety of charges. In December, Egypt's interim government officially declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

What is the Muslim Brotherhood?

Report: Egypt's army-backed government resigns

Five killed in clashes between Egyptian police, Muslim Brotherhood protesters

CNN's Kellie Morgan and Heba Fahmy reported from Cairo, and Laura Smith-Spark wrote from London. CNN's Susannah Cullinane contributed to this report.

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