Egypt’s highest court of appeal has overturned the death sentences against former President Mohammed Morsi and five other senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
The Court of Cassation ordered that the six men face a retrial in connection with a mass prison break during the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak.
Twenty-one life sentences for other Muslim Brotherhood members were overturned.
Morsi was elected president in 2012 but was removed by the military a year later after secularists protested against his rule.
Although he is no longer at risk of execution, Morsi is serving three lengthy prison sentences relating to other convictions.
Morsi and more than 100 other people were sentenced to death in May 2015 after being convicted of colluding with foreign militants – from the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas and Lebanon’s Shia militia Hezbollah – to organise a mass prison break.
Morsi was being held at Wadi Natroun prison in January 2011 when armed men overcame the guards, freeing thousands of inmates.
He and his co-defendants, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s general guide, Mohammed Badie, were also found guilty of the murder and kidnapping of guards, damaging and setting fire to prison buildings and looting the prison’s weapons depot – allegations which they have unequivocally denied.
In June 2015, a court upheld the death sentence against Morsi and 98 others after consulting Egypt’s Grand Mufti, Shawi Allam.
It was not immediately clear why the Court of Cassation overturned the sentences on yesterday, but a lawyer affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood said it had applied the law correctly.
“The ruling was expected because [Morsi’s conviction] was legally flawed,” Abdel Moneim Abdel Maksoud told the Reuters news agency.
The prosecution of Morsi has taken place amid a wider violent witch-hunt on the Muslim Brotherhood, which “President” Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has banned and promised to eradicate.
Thousands of people have been killed and tens of thousands of people imprisoned since 2013.
Morsi’s supporters have said the trials are politically motivated and attempts to give legal cover to an illegal military coup.
They claim they are based on unreliable witnesses and scant evidence.