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UN: Death penalty against 529 individuals in Egypt breaches human rights

The United Nations human rights office issued a statement on Tuesday saying that sentencing to death 529 Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters in Egypt "after a trial that was rife with procedural irregularities is in breach of international human rights law". The office also expressed its deep concern about other defendants facing similar charges.

An Egyptian court imposed on Monday the death penalty against 529 anti-coup activists after an astonishing two-day mass trial. Human rights activists and lawyers noted that this is the largest mass death sentence issued in Egypt in recent history.

Meanwhile, a trial against the Muslim Brotherhood's Supreme Guide and 682 others has started in the same court.

Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters at a news briefing in Geneva: "The astounding number of people sentenced to death in this case is unprecedented in recent history."

According to Reuters, Colville explained how: "A mass trial of 529 people conducted over just two days cannot possibly have met even the most basic requirements for a fair trial," noting that 398 of the defendants were tried in absentia.

Colville said that the exact charges against each defendant were not clear because they were not read out in the court and the defendants did not have lawyers present.

Defence lawyers also complained they did not have proper access to the defendants and that the court did not even examine the evidence they were able to provide.

"It is particularly worrying that there are thousands of other defendants who have been detained since last July on similar charges," Colville said, adding that, "The Minya criminal court in southern Egypt is today trying more than 600 individuals for membership of the Muslim Brotherhood, among other charges."

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