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Al-Sisi's Egypt is a land without justice

Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah Al-Sisi in New York, US on 24 September 2019 [Spencer Platt/Getty Images]
Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah Al-Sisi in New York, US on 24 September 2019 [Spencer Platt/Getty Images]

As often happens with military coups, the leader of the 2013 coup in Egypt, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, sent the heads of the elected regime and its supporters to the gallows. From the very first moment, he passed laws targeting citizens merely on suspicion of sympathy towards the former government or the movement behind it. The coup was a terrible leap into the unknown for Egypt, after Sisi fanned the flames of hatred within the souls of the masses against his opponents from every faction and affiliation. Demagoguery has dominated the state-controlled media and called explicitly for brutality against those seeking democratic legitimacy.

Following the coup against the first democratically-elected president, mass death sentences were imposed, in a kind of political genocide. From 2013 to this year, at least 2,532 death sentences were passed against Sisi's political opponents, of whom at least 188 were executed, according to organisations such as the Egyptian Front for Human Rights, the Committee for Justice, Arab Foundation for Civil and Political Rights — Nidal, and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. Their joint report confirms that Egypt has no less than 78 legal texts authorising the use of the death penalty for 104 crimes. The organisations call for an immediate end to death sentences being carried out.

Al-Sisi implied that he was interfering in the work of the judiciary when he declared in one of his speeches that the hand of the law is tied and he needs to release it. By changing judicial procedures he has been able to have criminal charges brought against his political opponents and ensure that they were handed severe sentences, all without international condemnation. He could no longer be accused of lying when he told the world that there are no political prisoners in Egypt, because by his judicial sleight of hand he had converted them all into common criminals overnight.

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Egypt is among the top ten countries in the world in terms of the number of executions. Human rights organisations have recorded a number of violations committed by the regime while investigating executions, including trials before exceptional courts; denial of the right to a defence; the enforced disappearance of defendants; material and moral coercion; and relying on anonymous witnesses and secret investigations. The regime not only executes prisoners by hanging, but also uses other, non-judicial methods which amount to premeditated murder, such as facilitating suicide, assassination, medical negligence, physical and mental torture, and solitary confinement. As a result, it is difficult to determine whether those carrying out the death sentences are official executioners or simply murderers, especially after hardened criminals received presidential pardons despite being found guilty of murder and possession of illegal weapons and narcotics.

The coup regime executes Egyptian citizens within and beyond prison walls. It sets itself up as judge, jury and executioner. It has killed people under the pretext that they belong to a terrorist group, and organised mass killings in Sinai that, since the beginning of the coup, have no longer covered by the media. The latest crime by the regime was the shooting of Awais Al-Rawi, who confronted a police officer who humiliated and abused his father.

Sisi's Prisons - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Sisi's Prisons – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Rights violations do not stop with the victims' death. In the last wave of executions in Egypt on 3 October, the regime hanged 15 people in one day without informing their families or giving them the opportunity for a final meeting. Moreover, they were told to go to the mortuary to collect the bodies only to find it guarded by security agents and Special Forces. The families were only able to collect their relatives' remains after waiting several days. In a further humiliation, the funeral prayers and burial services were restricted to immediate family members and took place under heavy guard. One of the most painful situations saw the authorities refusing to hand over one victim's remains to his elderly parents together. The regime was also inflexible in handing over the body of an orphan to his friends for burial.

Some of those executed were able to pen some final words before they were killed. Ahmed Taha Wahdan, for example, addressed his daughter, Laila, who was born a few months after his arrest: "Laila, my daughter, know, my dearest, that your father did not commit any crime or sin. My dear, my greatest concern was to protect you and find a homeland that protects you, and not just a big prison. Forgive me, I could not hold you, I could not give you one last hug, or kiss your head, my sweetheart. I love you."

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Others wrote of their treatment in prison. Engineering student Ahmed Mahrous insisted that he did not even know the name of the man he is supposed to have killed, or what he looked like. Young Abu Al-Qasim Ali Youssef, meanwhile, revealed that he was blindfolded by prison guards before he was forced to remove his clothes. "Then they walked me through the prison blocks and made me insult myself with words I would never say. They used to drench me with water and subject me to electric shocks."

Student Mahmoud Al-Ahmadi confronted the judge by pointing out, "Give me an electrocution device and I could make anyone admit that he killed Sadat. They tortured me with enough electricity to last Egypt 20 years."

Another student, Al-Moataz Billah Ghanem, wrote: "I do not know the people they asked me to confess about and I've never met them before. They wrote what to say on a piece of paper and asked me to memorise it, and then when the prosecutor confronted me with the accusations, I denied them. He became angry, and I was afraid, and asked what they wanted from me. He said to admit to what was asked of me."

One political prisoner was shot dead in the notorious Scorpion Prison in mysterious circumstances that the prison authorities covered up. His mother asked, "Why did they kill you, my dear? Did they carry you gently or drag you across the floor? How long did you bleed? Although they are criminals, I would have appreciated it if they had called me then so I could embrace you, wipe your blood, and hold your head gently. I do not believe there was someone able to shoot an innocent being like you, how did he dare to look you in the eyes? Did he blindfold your beautiful eyes so that he would not see them?"

Such is the situation in the country today. Al-Sisi's Egypt is a land without justice.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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