International

917 Egyptians sentenced to death since 2013 coup

An Egyptian Court sentenced eight people to death on Tuesday and 50 others to life in prison for their role in a case known as the storming of Helwan Police Station.

According to prosecution, on 14 August 2013 protesters stormed Helwan Police Station, which led to the killing of three police officers and two civilians. The police station and 20 police cars were destroyed.

The same court issued a 10-year prison term against seven defendants and five years in prison against three others. The defendants are accused of several charges including terrorism, premeditated murder, the attempted sabotage of public buildings and the destruction of police cars.

The Giza Criminal Court referred earlier this week 13 people’s cases to the country’s Grand Mufti in preparation for their execution.

Former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and co-founder of the Nahdha party, Ibrahim Al-Zaafarani, said that the number of Egyptians sentenced to death since the July 2013 coup has reached 917 cases.

In July 2013 Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi overthrew the government of elected President Mohammad Morsi with the blessing of the United States. Since then General Al-Sisi has assumed the title of Field Marshal.

Al-Zaafarani said in a press statement that 16 Egyptians are waiting to be hung whilst eight people have already been executed.

According to Al-Zaafarani nearly 640 Egyptians have died in prison as a result of torture and medical negligence while the number of those who have been extra-judicially executed has reached nearly 300 people.

A report by the UK based Arab Organization for Human Rights on human rights violations in Egypt during the third quarter of 2017 said that Egyptian courts have issued death sentences against 74 people.

In the aftermath of the 2013 coup, Egypt’s judiciary gave 237 death sentences in 2016, more than any other country in the region. That same year, 44 people – including eight women – were executed, a figure that doubled since the previous year and has risen sharply since the coup. In 2013 no executions were recorded.

As well as facing military tribunals, defendants are often sentenced to the death penalty in mass trials in which there is no time for individual evidence to be considered properly. In March 2014 a court in Egypt’s southern city of Minya passed down 529 execution orders in one go, then just weeks later sentenced 683 to the same fate.

Those who are sentenced to death in Egypt face hanging, an ancient, barbaric form of execution that snaps the neck and breaks the spinal cord or cuts off the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain and eventually results in death.

In a 2015 reportReprieve revealed that of the 588 people who had been sentenced to death since 2014 72 per cent of sentences were administered for attending pro-democracy protests.

Egypt’s highest criminal court has also sentenced six men to death for killing a policeman in the northern city of Mansoura in 2014 in what became known as the Mansoura Six case. The policeman was part of Hussein Qandil’s protection unit, one of the judges who presided over Mohammed Morsi’s trial.

Theirs is a familiar story – confessions were tortured out of them, they were denied access to lawyers, verdicts formed on the evidence of secret sources as well as there being major holes in the case as video evidence did not match up with witness statements.

Despite this, the Mansoura Six were convicted of premeditated murder, arms possession and forming a terrorist cell with the view to target security forces. Prior to the trial they were forcibly disappeared and then denied medical treatment once in detention. As of June their sentence cannot be appealed.

There are some 60,000 political prisoners in the country. Human rights activists are persecuted by the government and their organizations subject to severe limitations. In May, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi passed the NGO law which will severely restrict the operational capacity of some 47,000 non-governmental organizations.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com

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