World churches body troubled by Egypt death sentence for 529 people

(Photo: REUTERS / Amr Abdallah Dalsh)Riot police officers take positions during clashes in front of Cairo University March 26, 2014. One person was killed near Egypt's Cairo University on Wednesday when protesters supporting ousted President Mohamed Mursi clashed with security forces, a health ministry official told Reuters. The protesters were demonstrating against a court ruling earlier this week condemning more than 500 alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death.

The head of the World Council of Churches has expressed deep worry over a court decision in Egypt, where 529 people have been sentenced to death in one of the largest trials in the history of the country.

The death sentence for 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters of the ousted President Mohammed Morsi was meted out on March 25. Those sentenced are expected to appeal.

"While being hopeful that the judgment will be overturned on the first appeal, the WCC remains concerned over the reversal of the recent signs of hope," said WCC general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit on Friday.

He said there had been signs "which had suggested that the vibrant Egyptian society was progressing towards respect of human dignity and the rule of law."

The world churches had echoed the voices of Egyptian human rights organizations and the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, who have condemned the outcome of the mass trial as a "clear breach of international law."

Tveit expressed his hopes that "Egypt will go forward in a process that respects basic human rights and serves the building of democracy and mutual trust in the country."

"We believe that only a peaceful and inclusive process, in which all political parties and civil society organizations and actors work together" will lead Egypt to "national unity and to justice and peace," said Tveit.

The WCC represents more than 500 million Christians throughout the world and counts churches in Egypt in its membership.

About 10 percent of mainly Muslim Egypt's population of some 87 million people are Christians.

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