International rights watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday said that an Egyptian court's death sentences against ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and 114 others in two trials were "compromised by due process violations" and appeared to be "politically motivated".
The statement followed a Cairo court earlier in the day upholding a May 16 death sentence against Morsi and 98 others in a 2011 jailbreak case, and sentencing him to life in jail in another on charges of "conspiring with foreign powers" including Palestine's Hamas and Lebanon's Hizbollah.
"The convictions are based almost entirely on security officials’ testimony," the rights watchdog's statement read. A HRW review of both prosecution case file summaries "found little evidence other than the testimony of military and police officers to support the convictions of Morsi and 130 others for a 2011 prison break, and of Morsi and 35 others for conspiring with foreign powers against the state."
The court had issued preliminary verdicts in both cases on 16 May, and reviewed related death sentences on Tuesday, after Egypt's Grand Mufti had given his non-binding opinion on them according to Egyptian law.
"Although Egyptian criminal law requires establishing individual criminal guilt to convict a defendant, the case files give no indication that prosecutors investigated individual responsibility for the acts included in the charges," further read the HRW statement. If defendants were found individually guilty as charged, "prosecutors should present it publicly, and ask the court to retry the defendants in proceedings that meet international fair trial standards."
"The decision to charge Morsi and other [Muslim] Brotherhood members only after they were removed from power, and the failure to investigate any other party for the prison breaks or alleged conspiracy -- such as [current president Abdel Fattah] El-Sisi and other current and former military officers who worked with the Brotherhood during the relevant events -- creates the appearance that these cases are politically motivated," they said.
Before becoming head of state in 2014, following Morsi's ouster in July 2013, El-Sisi was director of military intelligence at the time of the prison breaks, said HWR.
Egypt's permanent delegate to the United Nations on Tuesday stressed Egypt's respect for human rights and defended its death penalty rulings.
Amr Ramadan said that neither the International Declaration of Human Rights nor the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prohibit the death penalty.
Egypt applies the death sentence in the case of "terrorism-related crimes", Ramadan said.