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Jan 24, 6:51 AM EST

Egypt court overturns 37 death sentences in criticized trial

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CAIRO (AP) -- Judicial officials in Egypt say an appeals court has ordered a retrial in an internationally criticized mass trial, overturning 37 death sentences.

Initially, more than 500 suspected backers of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi were sentenced to death last March in a swift, two-day trial in Minya. Defense attorneys were not allowed to present their case.

That number later dropped to 37 in April after the court considered the opinion of Egypt's top Islamic official. The rest were commuted to life imprisonment.

Judicial officials, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to journalists, said Saturday a retrial has been ordered for the 152 defendants who challenged the verdict. They said the decision does not include the 393 defendants sentenced in absentia last March.

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