Amnesty International slams ‘grotesque’ death penalty on 529 Egyptians

Ahram Online, Monday 24 Mar 2014

The human rights organisation demands that Egypt reveal figures on death sentences and executions

Amnesty International issued a statement criticising Monday’s verdict by an Egyptian court that saw the sentencing of 529 suspected Muslim Brotherhood supporters to execution for their alleged role in last August’s violence.

“Today’s mass death sentences handed down by an Egyptian court are a grotesque example of the shortcomings and selective nature of Egypt's justice system,” read the statement issued on Monday.

The human rights organisation demanded “the injustice writ large and death sentences” be quashed.

Imposing such a high magnitude of death sentences means that Egypt has surpassed most other countries in the use of capital punishment in the past year, according to the Hassiba Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

Sahraoui added that Monday’s verdict is the largest single batch of simultaneous death sentences seen in recent years worldwide.

The 529 defendants were charged with murdering Mostafa El-Attar, the deputy commander of the Matay district police station in Minya, during riots in the aftermath of the bloody dispersal of the Rabaa sit-in in August which left hundreds killed.

16 Defendants on Monday’s trial were acquitted.

The Rabaa dispersal was followed by days of violence nationwide that saw attacks on police stations and churches. The violence left over 600 dead, according to a recent report by the National Council for Human Rights.

Since then, security forces have sustained a crackdown on Islamists, arresting hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood leaders, members, and sympathizers.

“Egypt's courts are quick to punish Mohamed Morsi's supporters but ignore gross human rights violations by the security forces. While thousands of Morsi's supporters languish in jail, there has not been an adequate investigation into the deaths of hundreds of protesters. Just one police officer is facing a prison sentence, for the deaths of 37 detainees.” added the statement.

Last week an Egyptian court sentenced a police officer to 10 years in prison with labor in connection with the deaths of 37 Islamists in a crammed police van last year. Three other policemen were given one-year suspended sentences.

“Without an independent and impartial process that can deliver truth and justice for all, many will question whether Egypt's criminal justice system has indeed anything to do with justice,” added the statement which criticised Egyptian authorities for not releasing figures on death sentences and executions, despite repeated requests over the years by Amnesty International.

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