Six other co-defendants, including three journalists, were handed death penalties for leaking military secrets to Qatar
Egypt's ousted Islamist President Mohamad Morsi was today sentenced to life imprisonment by a Cairo court in an espionage trial in which six co-defendants were handed death penalties for leaking state secrets on military intelligence to Qatar and a Doha-based TV network.
The Cairo Criminal Court upheld the death sentences of the six Muslim Brotherhood members and awarded life imprisonment to two others.
Life in prison in Egypt is 25 years. But Morsi, who received life in prison for leading an unlawful group, was given an additional 15 years for stealing documents related to national security, increasing his jail term to 40 years.
The six co-defendants were Ahmed Abdo Ali Afifi, a documentary film producer (who is in jail), Asmaa el-Khateeb, a reporter with Rasd News Network which is widely suspected of links to Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood (sentenced in absentia).
Two more included Al-Jazeera employees - news producer Alaa Omar Mohammed and news editor Ibrahim Mohammed Hilal (both sentenced in absentia).
Qatar, a wealthy Gulf state, was the main backer of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood during his term in power between 2012 and July 2013, when the military overthrew and detained him. Today's verdicts are not final and can be appealed.
Last month, the court ordered that case documents of the six defendants, excluding Morsi, be referred to the Grand Mufti, who according to Egyptian law must review all death sentences. His decision, however, is not binding.
The co-defendents have been convicted for leaking classified documents to Qatar and selling them to Doha-based Al-Jazeera channel. The documents allegedly include information on general and military intelligence, the armed forces, its armaments and state policy secrets.
Other charges include leading and joining the outlawed Brotherhood, that aims at changing Egypt's regime by force, and attacking army and police posts and public properties.
Muslim Brotherhood's Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie and 35 other members of the proscribed Islamist group were last month sentenced to life for committing violent acts after the ouster of country's first democratically-elected President in 2013.
Badie and Morsi were also sentenced to life in prison in the espionage case. Their sentences are currently in appeal.
Morsi, Badie and 100 other leaders were sentenced to death in June last year for escaping from prison in 2011.
However, an Egyptian court later quashed the death sentence against Badie. Hundreds of other Muslim Brotherhood members were also sentenced for life in various cases.
The Egyptian government has been cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters since Morsi's ouster. The Muslim Brotherhood was designated as a terrorist group in November 2013 by the government.