528 supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi have been sentenced to death by a court in Egypt, after they were convicted of charges including murdering a policeman and attacks on people and property.
The group is among some 1,200 Muslim Brotherhood supporters on trial, including senior members.
Authorities have cracked down harshly on Islamists since Mr Morsi was removed by the military in July. Hundreds have been killed and thousands arrested.
The speed of the case, and the severity of the outcome, are unprecedented in Egypt, according to legal sources.
In a case centred on the killing of a single police officer, more than 520 defendants have been sentenced to death, at a breathtaking pace.
The first hearing – on Saturday – was quickly adjourned. At Monday’s second session, the mass death sentences were announced.
A spokesman for the banned Muslim Brotherhood said the verdict came from a “Kangaroo court”. One human rights campaigner said judges had become a tool for taking revenge.
In spite of claims by officials about the independence of the judiciary, critics will see this verdict as part of the state’s campaign to quash the Brotherhood.
The ruling is expected to be appealed and several legal experts are predicting a retrial.
The final trial session will not be held until 28 April, so there is some time left before the sentence is confirmed by Egypt’s supreme religious authority, the Grand Mufti (a senior Islamic scholar), for approval or rejection. During this period, there will be time to appeal, a BBC report said.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s spokesman in London, Abdullah el-Haddad, told the BBC the sentences showed that Egypt was now a dictatorship.
“It may be just a threat message and there will be appeals to the court and the decision of the court will change, but this is the new Egypt after the coup. This is the new dictatorship that [army chief and defence minister Field Marshal] Abdul Fattah al-Sisi is trying to establish.”
Mr Haddad said the Muslim Brotherhood’s general guide Mohammed Badie was among those convicted, though other reports say Mr Badie is only due in court on Tuesday.