CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian court upheld death sentences on Wednesday against 12 Muslim Brotherhood supporters convicted of killing a police officer last year, judicial sources said.
Judge Moataz Khafagy first passed the sentence against the men in June and referred the case to the country's highest Sunni Muslim authority for approval, which is required before any execution can be carried out.
The men were charged in connection with violence that erupted when police stormed the town of Kerdasa near Cairo in September and arrested dozens of supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi.
Major General Nabil Farag was shot dead when security forces exchanged fire with militants in the area.
A month earlier security forces had crushed two pro-Mursi protest camps in Cairo and killed hundreds of his supporters. Then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi launched his crackdown on Islamists after ousting Mursi last year following mass protests against his rule.
Sisi, who took office as president in June, has said the Brotherhood would cease to exist in his presidency.
Seven of those sentenced to death were present in court when the judge read the ruling. The remaining five are on the run. The defendants still have the right to appeal the ruling.
Nine other defendants were sentenced to life in prison, the judicial sources said.
The defendants present chanted "God is Greater!" when the judge read the verdict.
The men were also convicted of belonging to the Brotherhood, which was designated a terrorist organisation last year. The group was Egypt's best organised political force until the state crackdown against it.
The ruling follows the confirmation of death sentences against Mohamed Badie, the leader of the Brotherhood, and nearly 200 supporters in June.
Hundreds more suspected supporters of Mursi and his Brotherhood are awaiting final decisions after their death sentences were referred to the Mufti, the top religious authority in the land. The cases have provoked outrage among rights groups and Western governments.
(Reporting By Maggie Fick and Ahmed Tolba; editing by John Stonestreet)