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Not a single political prisoner in Egypt: Justice minister

Egypt' justice minister also insists that the judiciary is in line with the constitution and free from political sway and external influence

Ahram Online, Sunday 25 May 2014
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In a press conference held on Saturday, Egypt's Justice Minister Nayer Osman asserted that the country has no political prisoners, adding that all legal procedures are being undertaken in accordance with international standards.

"Criminal trials in Egypt are held in abidance to the constitution and the law, and its guarantees exceed international standards, particularly when it comes to the death penalty," said Osman.

Regarding last April's mass death sentence for 683 people, including Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, for attacking an Upper Egyptian police station and killing an officer, Osman asserted that the trial is still pending appeal and that the "Egyptian judiciary can't be subordinated to inside or outside views but only rules with its tools".

"There is no room for politics in the judiciary," he said, adding that the constitution secures a just trial for all defendants.

The controversial death penalty was the second in less than a month. In March, the same Minya court sentenced 529 alleged Muslim Brotherhood members to death for their role in a similar police station attack. The verdict was deemed shocking and drew criticism from many for being issued after only two court sessions and in the absence of the defence team. In April, the court upheld the death penalty for only 37 and sentenced the 492 others to life in prison.

Egypt's interim authorities have faced increasing criticism from international governments and both local and global human rights defenders for violating human rights through a sustained crackdown on Islamists and dissidents. Thousands of Brotherhood members and sympathisers have been arrested since the group's leader and Egypt's first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi was removed from power last summer amid mass protests against his rule.

The crackdown has been met with a spike in militant attacks targeting police and army troops. The attacks, which initially started in the Sinai Peninsula and then spread to other governorates, including the capital and the Nile Delta, have left hundreds of police and military personnel dead.

 

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