, CAIRO, May 24- An Egyptian court jailed 19 supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi for five years on Saturday for storming the offices of the head of the prestigious Al Azhar Islamic institution, judicial sources said.
The army installed government has rounded up thousands of Morsi’s supporters and tried them in mass hearings since his ouster in July last year.
The defendants were accused of damaging public property, assaulting civil servants and blocking roads for storming the offices of the head of the Al Azhar institution in Cairo in November, the sources said.
Each defendant was also fined 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($ 2,850 or 2,200 euros).
A minor accused in the case was sentenced to three years in juvenile detention, while one Turkish national was acquitted of the charges, they added.
Following the ouster of Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected civilian president, his supporters have staged protests that have often degenerated into violent street clashes with security forces and civilian opponents.
At least 1,400 people, mostly Islamists, have been killed in these clashes, and more than 15,000 jailed.
Hundreds have been sentenced to death in speedy trials.
On April 30, a court in the central city of Minya triggered global outrage by sentencing 683 suspected Islamists to death, including Muslim Brotherhood chief Mohamed Badie, accusing them of murder and the attempted murder of policemen.
Judges are due to confirm the 683 death sentences on June 21.
The same court had previously handed 529 Morsi supporters death sentences but later upheld the sentencing against only 37 of them. The rest were jailed for life.
On Saturday, justice minister Nayyer Abdelmoneim Othman defended the judiciary’s actions faced with international outcry over the Minya rulings.
Othman said courts protected defendants’ rights and respected international standards, but were not immune to errors made by judges who are only “humans”.
“If there is an erroneous verdict, it would be overturned by the court of cassation”, he said.
“I wanted to clarify this image to the world,” Othman said, denying judges could be influenced by the political situation in the country.
“The judiciary is not concerned by the political circumstances and the people’s feelings,” he said.