Cairo - An Egyptian appeals court overturned on Wednesday death sentences for
149 pro-Islamists accused of killing policemen in a mob attack on their
station, a judicial source said.
The court ordered a retrial for
the defendants over the attack, which killed 13 policemen near Cairo on
August 14, 2013, the day police shot dead hundreds of Islamist
demonstrators in the capital.
The initial ruling in February 2015
came amid a series of death sentences in mass trials that were
criticised internationally, as the government cracked down on supporters
of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
The court had also sentenced 37 people to death in absentia, but they would have to hand themselves in for a retrial.
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grounds for the appeals court ruling were not immediately available,
but the court has overturned hundreds of death sentences over the past
year, to the relief of rights advocates and frustration of some in the
government who have urged fast track executions.
Seven people have
been executed for political violence since Morsi's ouster, including
six who were convicted of belonging to an Islamist militant group.
military overthrow of Morsi, the country's first freely elected
president, ushered in the worst domestic bloodshed in the country's
Morsi ruled for only a year, deeply dividing the
country, and his removal was met with escalating protests by Islamists
that police dispersed with live ammunition.
On August 14, 2013,
less than two months after his overthrow, police broke up two protest
camps in Cairo, killing about 700 protesters.
around the country attacked police stations, killing dozens of officers,
and torched the churches of Coptic Christians.