Egyptian court upholds life imprisonment for former Muslim Brotherhood leader

Mahmoud Ezzat was arrested in 2020 and convicted of conspiring with foreign entities to destabilise Egypt and handing defence secrets to Hamas and Hezbollah

Mahmoud Ezzat, former acting supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, had been in hiding until he was arrested last year. Reuters
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A Cairo criminal court on Sunday upheld a life sentence for Mahmoud Ezzat, the former acting supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, court officials told The National on the condition of anonymity.

Ezzat was arrested in 2020 and convicted of conspiring with foreign powers to destabilise Egypt.

He was also convicted of handing over Egyptian defence secrets to the Palestinian militant group Hamas and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, with the intent of strengthening the Muslim Brotherhood’s political power in the region at the expense of Egypt’s national security.

According to court documents cited by state media, Ezzat also conducted military training with Hamas militants in the Gaza strip.

Since joining the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1960s and studying under one of its most prominent leaders, Sayyid Qotb, Ezzat has been arrested several times for his involvement with the group.

His longest sentence was 10 years, which he served between 1965 and 1975.

A hardliner and one of the group's longest-serving members, Ezzat was again arrested in 2008 for participating in a protest against Israeli military strikes on Gaza.

However, he broke out of prison in 2011, during the wave of political unrest following the ousting of Hosni Mubarak as president.

Jailed Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie, whose deputy, Mahmoud Ezzat, was arrested in Cairo in August 2020. AFP

Ezzat managed to evade the first wave of arrests in 2013 that apprehended the majority of the brotherhood’s leaders at the time.

Following the arrest of his mentor, the former supreme guide Mohammed Badie, Ezzat became acting leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013.

Ezzat was sentenced to death in 2015 in absentia for breaking out of jail and for inciting protests in the Egyptian capital to overthrow President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.

However, he remained in hiding until he was arrested in August last year, during a raid on an apartment in Cairo.

After his arrest and retrial in 2020, Ezzat's death sentence was reduced to life in prison in April.

His defence team appealed against the life sentence. But the ruling was upheld by the special terrorism court that handled his case.

Ezzat is widely reported as being the mastermind behind the brotherhood’s military operations, and that following the group’s decline and the arrest of the majority of its leadership in 2013, he was the sole architect of all its terrorist activity within Egypt.

Following his arrest last year, Egypt's Interior Ministry issued a statement blaming Ezzat for several car bombings that left dozens dead – including a former prosecutor general, a military general and other security officials.

Among the attacks was a car bombing outside Cairo’s Cancer Institute that killed 20 people and injured 47, officials said.

Updated: December 19, 2021, 6:28 PM