MINYA, Egypt — An Egyptian court sentenced the leader of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and 682 supporters to death Monday, intensifying a crackdown on the movement that could trigger protests and political violence ahead of an election next month.
The Brotherhood, in a statement issued in London, described the ruling as chilling and said it would “continue to use all peaceful means to end military rule.”
An Islamist alliance that includes the Brotherhood called on Egyptians to demonstrate against the death sentences in the streets of Cairo on Wednesday.
In another case signaling growing intolerance of dissent by military-backed authorities, a pro-democracy movement that helped ignite the uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011 was banned by court order, judicial sources said.
The death sentence for Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s general guide, will infuriate members of the group, which has been the target of raids, arrests and bans since the army forced President Mohamed Mursi from power in July.
The United States and the United Nations expressed alarm over the ruling.
Some Brotherhood members fear pressure from security forces and the courts could drive some young members to violence against the movement’s old enemy, the Egyptian state.
Islamist militants based in the Sinai Peninsula have stepped up attacks against security forces since Mursi’s overthrow, killing hundreds.
On Monday night, Cairo authorities found two bombs that were planted in the car of an army officer, security officials said.
Badie, considered a conservative hardliner, was charged with crimes including inciting violence that followed the army overthrow of Mursi, who is also on trial on an array of charges.
The slight, 70-year-old veterinary professor stood trial in Cairo in a separate case hours after the sentence was affirmed.
“If they executed me one thousand times I will not retreat from the right path,” Badie was quoted as saying by lawyer Osama Mursi, who attended one of his trials in Cairo.
The comments were published on the Facebook page of Osama Mursi, son of the Brotherhood leader ousted as president.
Two security officials told Reuters that Badie appeared relaxed and joked, asking other Brotherhood members to buy him the red outfit that prisoners condemned to death wear.
Tough measures against the Brotherhood suggest the authorities still see it as a major threat, even though most of its leaders and thousands of members are behind bars.
Authorities are well aware that the movement founded in 1928 has survived repression under successive Egyptian autocrats.
The White House said it was “deeply troubled” by the ruling.
“Today’s verdict, like the one last month, defies even the most basic standards of international justice,” it said in a statement. Secretary of State John Kerry would raise U.S. concerns in a meeting with the Egyptian foreign minister on Tuesday, Kerry’s spokeswoman said.
Death sentence recommendations in the case involving Badie will be passed on to Egypt’s Mufti, the highest religious authority. His opinion can be ignored by the court. The rulings can be appealed. Many defendants are on the run.