Egypt’s ex-president Mursi gets life sentence in Qatar spy case

Egypt’s former President Mohamed Mursi was jailed for life, while six people, including two Al-Jazeera staff members, had death sentences affirmed by a Cairo criminal court in a case linked to passing state secrets to Qatar.

The death sentences had been referred to the Grand Mufti, the government’s top religious official, for ratification. Mursi and two others who served in the government during his one-year presidency were given the standard life sentence. The verdicts can be appealed.

The judge, Mohamed Fahmy, said religious authorities who reviewed the case found that what the defendants had “surpassed espionage,” because what they accomplished no spy could have done.

The two Al-Jazeera journalists were identified as Alaa Omar Mohamed and Ibrahim Mohamed Helal. They were tried in absentia.

Egyptian officials have claimed the Qatar-based satellite channel is sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, a movement that fielded Mursi for office and was branded a terrorist organization after his July 2013 ouster.

Mursi, who was pushed from power in a military-backed popular uprising, has already been sentenced to death in connection with a prison breakout at the time of the 2011 uprising against his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. He has also been sentenced to life in prison in connection with another espionage case tied to the Palestinian Hamas movement.

The Islamist ex-president was accused of passing on state secrets to Qatar, and the judge said the six sentenced to death had relayed classified documents about the Egyptian military to a foreign nation.