Egypt sentences radical preacher to death in absentia

Egypt sentences radical preacher to death in absentia
Egyptian hardliner Wagdi Ghoneim was sentenced to death in absentia on Sunday on charges of establishing an illegal organisation that incited violence against security forces.
2 min read
30 April, 2017
Ghoneim served as a preacher in California between 2001 and 2005 [YouTube]

An Egyptian cleric has been sentenced to death in absentia by a Cairo court on charges of establishing a "terror group" after the 2013 overthrow of the country's first democratically-elected President Mohamad Morsi.

Wagdi Ghoneim, who currently lives in Turkey, dismissed Sunday's ruling, saying he had not been in Egypt since 2001.

The criminal court in Cairo also sentenced to death two other people, who are in detention, for the same convictions, a security and a judicial official said.

Five others were sentenced to life in prison - 25 years in Egypt - two of them in absentia, the officials said.

The verdicts are not final and can be appealed.

Ghoneim, known for his inflammatory statements including against Egypt's Christian minority, campaigned against the military-led ouster of former Islamist president in 2013.

The radical preacher left Egypt after Morsi's ouster at a time when the authorities were launching a crackdown against supporters of Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Ghoneim sparked controversy on a visit to Tunisia in 2012 by saying that "seculars and liberals" are "apostates", and describing female genital mutilation as an "aesthetic operation".

He served as a preacher in California between 2001 and 2005 before being forced to leave, officially because he had overstayed his visa.

After that, he lived mainly in Yemen and Qatar, and was also barred from entering the UK, allegedly for encouraging acts of terrorism.

Egypt has waged a sweeping crackdown against Morsi's now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, jailing thousands and killing hundreds in street clashes in the months following his 2013 overthrow.

Hundreds of Morsi supporters have also been sentenced to death since then, but many have appealed and won new trials.

Morsi and other top figures of his Muslim Brotherhood have also faced trial.