MINYA, Egypt — An Egyptian court in the southern city of Minya sentenced 683 people to death Monday in the most recent of a series of mass trials that have alarmed the international community
The ruling came one month after 529 people were sentenced to death in a similar mass trial in the same courtroom, and it coincided with a visit to Washington by Egypt's foreign minister in an effort to smooth relations between the United States and one of its most significant allies in the Middle East.
The Obama administration quickly condemned the ruling, saying that it defied "even the most basic standards of international justice."
"Egyptian leaders must take a stand against this illogical action and dangerous precedent, recognizing that the repression of peaceful dissent will fuel the instability and radicalization that Egypt says it wishes to prevent," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
Those sentenced to death were all alleged supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who was toppled last summer in a military coup. They included Mohammed Badie, the spiritual leader of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, which captured the lion's share in Egypt's first democratic elections, held in 2012.
All but 37 of the previous death sentences have been commuted to life imprisonment, under a review by Egypt's highest religious authority, it was announced Monday.
The most serious charge in Monday's case was the killing of a police officer during clashes between security forces and Morsi's supporters across the nation last summer. The clashes broke out after security forces launched deadly raids on pro-Morsi protest camps in the capital.
The defendants were barred from attending their own trial, which lasted only a few minutes, defense attorneys said. It was unclear what evidence the court had used to convict the men, who were described by families and defense attorneys as ordinary townspeople.
Defense attorneys said they would appeal the verdict.
Of the 683 men, only 70 are in custody, said Khaled Koumi, a defense attorney in the case.