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2,081 Egypt detainees referred to Mufti for death sentences

February 28, 2018 at 2:37 pm

Egyptians can be seen behind prison bars, 20 February 2020 [Amr Sayed/Apaimages]

Thirty opponents of the Egyptian regime face the risk of execution at any time, according to the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR UK) in its latest report on death sentences issued in Egypt since the coup of 3 July 2013.

The report details how the Egyptian regime has launched an intensive crackdown on dissidents through the arrests of tens of thousands of Egyptians on trumped up charges. Those arrested have then faced sentencing in mass trials which lack basic justice and where many have been handed death sentences en masse.

The Egyptian civil and military judiciary have referred the papers of 2081 defendants to the Mufti for ratification which is an obligation before any death sentence can be approved according to Egyptian law. In 73 cases presented to the Mufti, 986 defendants were ratified, 57 of those having gone through all means possible to appeal the sentencing. Egyptian authorities have already carried out 27 of those sentences often based on poor and legally invalid evidence.

Much of the evidence is based on confessions which are extracted through torture with the Public Prosecution failing to further investigate the allegations and the courts upholding the confessions as evidence.

HRW: Egypt must halt arbitrary arrests of opposition

Other evidence in the AOHR UK’s findings include death sentences listed under classified security investigations and carried out by the National Security Agency with no new information added to the cases from the investigations aside from statements of the officers who arrested the accused them.

Clear evidence provided by the defendants’ lawyers proving their innocence was also routinely ignored as well as investigations into the falsification of the records released against them by security authorities and evidence of crimes committed against the accused of enforced disappearances and torture.

Many of the detainees were also handed death sentences and convicted before given the opportunity of defending themselves during trials which are often filmed and distributed to state media who often use terms such as “terrorist cells”, “espionage”, “incursions into police stations” or “vandalism of public property” to reiterate their guilt.

AOHR UK highlighted recent Egyptian laws passed in order to legitimise its illegal practices against its opponents and in order to justify use of the death penalty. The Egyptian president issued a law which granted the military authority to protect public and state facilities.

Egypt sentences 21 to death on terror charges

This enables all cases involving attacks against public and state facilities to be dealt with under military jurisdiction and authorises armed forces to transfer thousands of detainees to military courts.

In August 2015, the Egyptian government issued the anti-terror law which permits security services and prosecution authorities to exceed all standards of a fair trial and denies basic rights of the detained individual. It also allows authorities the power to impose heavy sentences on any individual deemed a threat by the Egyptian regime and allows for opponents to be targeted, killed and disappeared with impunity.

According to the report, over the past four years, military courts sentenced 121 people to death, adding that all the cases were brought before the Supreme Court of Military Appeals and were fully ratified.

The report also highlighted how 30 people are at risk of execution after their death sentences were ratified and all routes of appeal were exhausted and called on the United Nations and the international community to “use all their means to stop the multi-faceted killing machine used by the Egyptian regime to stamp out dissidents. All methods are currently deliberately disrupted, paving the way for the regime to continue with its bloody endeavours which is having catastrophic consequences.”

Amnesty: Egypt’s human rights crisis escalated in 2017

Another report released surrounding detentions in Egypt today highlighted how detainees are continuously denied their rights while in court. The state “prevents communication between defendants and their lawyers before, during, and after trials, thus depriving the defendants from exchanging important information concerning the proceedings with the lawyers”, it said.

In addition to this, defendants are unable to talk to their family, are forced to sit in glass cages in court leaving them unable to speak during the court’s session and often unable to hear the proceedings.

The cages are used for hours on end, leaving defendants without food or water or access to a toilet throughout this time.

Judges are often bias, with some declaring “I am looking for prosecution evidence and not for favourable evidence” regarding the detainees in the case.