An Egyptian court that sentenced 529 people to death has begun the trial of another 700 more alleged supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi, including the leader of his Muslim Brotherhood movement.
Lawyers said they would demand the judge step down after he delivered the unprecedented death sentences on Monday in a court in the southern province of Minya after only two hearings.
Legal experts said the unprecedented sentences are likely to be overturned on appeal.
The rushed sentencings sparked an international outcry and sent a chill through opponents of the military-installed regime, which has placed more than 2000 alleged Islamists on mass trials since the army overthrew Morsi in July.
The roughly 1200 defendants in Minya are accused of the murder and attempted murder of several policemen during riots on August 14, as police killed hundreds of Morsi supporters when dispersing two Cairo protest camps.
Mohamed Badie, the Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme guide, is among the defendants, but he was not brought to court for security reasons, security officials said.
He faces several other trials that could also result in the death penalty.
Monday’s death sentences drew criticism from rights groups, the United States and the European Union, which questioned the fairness of proceedings against so many defendants lasting just two days.
Legal experts said the shock verdict would likely be overturned on appeal because the court had rushed the trial without following the required procedures.
Egypt’s army-installed interim government has defended the court’s handling of the case, insisting that the sentences had been handed down only “after careful study” and were subject to appeal.
Of the 529 sentenced on Monday, only 153 are in custody. The rest were tried in their absence and will get a retrial if they turn themselves in.
Another 17 defendants were acquitted.
The judgment can be appealed at the Court of Cassation, which would probably order a new trial or reduce the sentences, legal expert Gamal Eid said.
“This sentencing is a catastrophe and a travesty and a scandal that will affect Egypt for many years,” said Eid, who heads the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.
Lawyer Khaled al-Koumi says the defence will demand the judge’s recusal in Tuesday’s hearing.
Egyptian media reported that the judge, Said Yusef Sabry, has a history of delivering harsh judgments, including a 30-year prison sentence for a man who stole dresses from a women’s clothing store.
Washington questioned how the court could have given the defendants a fair hearing in a trial that spanned just two days – an opening session on Saturday and Monday’s sentencing.
The foreign ministry defended the judiciary, saying it was “entirely independent and not influenced in any way by the executive branch of government”.
At least 1400 people have been killed in the crackdown on Morsi’s supporters and thousands more arrested, according to Amnesty International.
Morsi is himself currently on trial in three different cases. The army removed Egypt’s first freely elected president after a single year in power following mass protests demanding his resignation.