Egypt has executed nine young men convicted over the 2015 killing of the country's top prosecutor, a prison source and a lawyer confirmed this morning, despite international condemnation from rights groups over the death sentences, with concerns over due process violations.
The men were among a group of 28 who were sentenced to death in 2017 for allegedly planning the assassination of prosecutor Hisham Barakat, who was killed in a car bomb attack on his convoy in Cairo two years previously.
Despite allegations that the men were convicted in unfair trials, their appeal was rejected by Egypt's highest appeals court on 25 February 2018. Some 13 others were also convicted in absentia, one of whom – Mohammed Abdel-Hafiz – was deported from Turkey last month and is likely to face a new trial over the same accusations.
Several of the men said they had been forcibly disappeared and tortured in order to confess to the killing.
Yesterday, Amnesty International urged Egyptian authorities to halt the executions, condemning Cairo's frequent use of the death penalty.
"There is no doubt that those involved in deadly attacks must be prosecuted and held accountable for their actions but executing prisoners or convicting people based on confessions extracted through torture is not justice," Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International's North Africa campaigns director, said in a statement.
"The death penalty is a cruel, inhuman and irreversible punishment and its use in Egypt is even more appalling given the authorities' track record of handing out death sentences after grossly unfair trials."
Egypt executed six other men in two separate cases this month that were denounced by rights groups as unjust. Some 1,400 people have been sentenced to death since 2013, convicted mostly of incidents of political violence.
Since becoming president following a military coup in 2013, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has ruled Egypt with an iron fist. The government has launched a crackdown on anyone suspected of opposing Al-Sisi, with former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected leader, also imprisoned and facing a retrial after previously being sentenced to death.
The families of political prisoners have also faced discrimination. The then two-year-old daughter of Ahmad Wahdan, who was executed this morning, was expelled from the nursery she was attending in November, after the school management learned her father was in prison.
Amnesty International has described the situation in Egypt as the worst human rights crisis in the country in decades, with the state systematically using arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances to silence any dissent and create an atmosphere of fear.
Abuse and extrajudicial killings are common, with a recent report accusing the Egyptian government of also kidnapping and torturing children, providing evidence that at least six children have been tortured in custody, and a further 12 have been disappeared from their families since 2015.