(photo credit: REUTERS)
An Egyptian court listed Hamas as a terrorist organization, judicial sources said Saturday, part of a sustained crackdown on Islamists in the most populous Arab state.
In a separate case earlier in the day, a court sentenced the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s top leader Mohamed Badie to life in prison while other members received the death penalty.
Hamas is an offshoot of the Brotherhood, which the authorities also have declared a terrorist group in Egypt and have repressed systematically since the army ousted one of its leaders, Mohamed Morsi, from the presidency in 2013.
While a court ruled in January that Hamas’s armed wing was a terrorist organization, Saturday’s broader ruling against the entire group has potentially greater consequences for the already strained relationship between Cairo and Hamas.
Hamas denounced the ruling saying the move “turns Israel into a friend and the Palestinian people into an enemy [of Egypt].”
“The Egyptian court’s decision to list the Hamas movement as a terror organization is shocking and is dangerous, and it targets the Palestinian people and its factions of resistance,” Hamas said in a statement.
Leaders called on their supporters to take to the streets late Saturday to express outrage over the verdict.
Izzat al-Risheq, a senior Hamas official, said the ruling was an “insult to Egypt” and won’t affect Hamas or its supporters, he added.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, meanwhile, said Egypt was no longer an honest broker with regard to Palestinian issues.
He claimed the decision was politically motivated and said he did not rule out the possibility that it was taken in coordination between Egypt and Israel.
Several Palestinian groups, including Islamic Jihad, also denounced the decision, denying charges that Hamas or other Palestinian groups had been involved in terrorist attacks against Egypt.
Hossam al-Qawish, a spokesman for the Egyptian government, declined to say what actions would be taken to enforce the ruling.
“When a final judgment is issued, we will discuss this,” he said. In the second case, Badie, the top leader of the nowbanned Muslim Brotherhood, was among 14 who were sentenced to life, alongside deputy leader Khairat el-Shater and leading figure Mohamed El-Beltagy.
Four lower-level members were sentenced to death for inciting violence that led to the killing of protesters demonstrating outside a Brotherhood office days before Mursi’s ouster.
Two of those sentenced to death and three sentenced to life were tried in absentia.
The death sentences are subject to appeal and many of the defendants are already serving lengthy sentences on other charges.
Badie already has been sentenced to multiple life terms, and was one of hundreds given the death sentence in a mass trial that drew international criticism of Egypt’s judicial system.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who as army chief toppled Morsi, described the Brotherhood as a major security threat.
The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters issued its verdict in two separate private suits filed by Egyptian lawyers against Hamas.
In January, the court issued a similar verdict against Hamas’s armed wing, Izaddin Kassam.
The lawyers who filed the suit against Hamas accused the movement of carrying out several terrorist attacks in Egypt.
They claimed Hamas also was involved in storming a prison and releasing members of the Muslim Brotherhood and killing Egyptian protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo.