683 sentenced to death follows confirmed death sentences for 37 others
‘The court has displayed a complete contempt for the most basic principles of a fair trial and has utterly destroyed its credibility - Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui
Amnesty International today warned of grave flaws in Egypt’s criminal justice system after a court in El Minya, Upper Egypt, confirmed death sentences for 37 people and imposed terms of life imprisonment against 491 in one case, while ruling that 683 people should be sentenced to death in another case.
In the first case, all 528 defendants were facing charges in connection with an attack on a police station last August, as well as belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood movement. The verdicts in their cases come after a grossly unfair trial in which the judge did not review evidence or allow the defence to cross-examine witnesses.
Defence lawyers and defendants alike were barred from the previous session on 24 March, in which the court indicated it would sentence all 528 to death.
Today, in a separate case involving political violence the same court also referred 683 defendants - including Mohamed Badie, the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood - to Egypt’s Grand Mufti. Under Egyptian law the Grand Mufti must review all death sentences before the court formally imposes them. The 683 are accused of murder, attempted murder, burning Adwa Police Station, belonging to a banned group and participating in a gathering of more than five persons with the intention of committing the above-mentioned crimes. This trial, like the earlier one involving 528 defendants, has been fundamentally unfair, as reported by an Amnesty delegate who attended the trial.
None of the defendants in either case was brought to court.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:
“Egypt’s judiciary risks becoming just another part of the authorities’ repressive machinery, issuing sentences of death and life imprisonment on an industrial scale.
“The court has displayed a complete contempt for the most basic principles of a fair trial and has utterly destroyed its credibility.
“The verdict must not be allowed to stand - the convictions of the 37 sentenced to death and 491 sentenced to life in prison must be quashed, and fair retrials with no possibility of the death penalty must be ordered immediately for all the defendants.”
Amnesty opposes the death penalty in all circumstances and considers it to be the ultimate cruel, degrading and inhuman punishment.