Egypt executes 6 in 'Arab Sharkas' case

Ahram Online , Sunday 17 May 2015

The trial was the first concerning the Sinai-based militant group Ansar Beit El-Maqdis

Arab Sharkas village
Medical workers carry bodies from gun battle between militants and military officers in Arab Sharkas village, north of Cairo, Egypt, March 2014 (Photo:AP)

Egypt’s prison authorities carried out six death sentences early Sunday in the case known as "Arab Sharkas," where the convicted were tried over connections with the Sinai-based Islamist militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis.

A military court had sentenced seven Egyptian men to death, including one in absentia, and two to life in prison on charges of terrorism in October 2014.

The men were charged with planning terrorist operations, shooting at security forces, attacking military facilities and naval ships and being members of Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis.

Among the incidents the accused were charged with involvement in were the planning of an attack on the Mustorod checkpoint in Qaloubiya that killed six soldiers and an attack on Cairo's security directorate headquarters in January 2014.

The case became known as Arab Sharkas as it was named after a village in the governorate of Qaliubiya, north of Cairo, where security forces carried out a raid in March 2014 against a terrorist cell. The operation claimed the lives of two military officers.

The defendants had filed an appeal that was rejected in March 2015.

In civil trials, the general prosecution usually appeals death sentences. The second verdict can still be appealed with the Court of Cassation. However, in military courts defendants are only allowed one appeal request.

The rights group “Against the Death Penalty” had sent a letter to the National Council for Human Rights on 9 April calling on it to take action to stop the executions.

It said the death penalty is an “an irreversible punishment” and “requires a very sound and strict system of justice where investigations [are] … accurate, transparent and professional, and where the defendant should enjoy all rights securing a fair trial.”

It said a military trial does not fulfill this criteria “at a time where the minimum required standards for justice are lacking.”

Egypt's 2014 constitution gives military tribunals jurisdiction over crimes committed against army facilities and personnel, an authority that caused controversy as opponents of the article insist civilians should not be subject to military trials.

Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis has claimed responsibility for many of the attacks against army and police forces in Egypt following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. 

Egypt carried out the first execution related to the violence that followed Morsi's ouster on 7 May, when an Alexandrian man was hanged for the killing of a young man in 2013.

A criminal court returned the verdict as the man appeared in a video throwing two off a high ledge on the roof of a building onto the terrace below in Alexandria's Sidi Gaber district at a time of heightened tensions between opponents and supporters of Morsi, who had just been ousted.

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