EGYPT: 683 ISLAMISTS SENTENCED TO DEATH, ANOTHER 492 DEATH SENTENCES REVERSED
April 28, 2014: an Egyptian court in Minya condemned the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and 682 of his supporters to death.
Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood's general guide, and his fellow defendants faced charges over an attack on a police station in Minya in 2013 in which a policeman was killed.
The hearing lasted just 10 minutes, said defence lawyer Khaled Elkomy. None of the defendants were brought to court for the session. Only 73 of the 683 defendants sentenced to death are in custody, prosecutor Abdel Rahim Abdel Malek said. The others have a right to a retrial if they turn themselves in. At least three of those convicted were out of the country on the day of the alleged offences and have Saudi visas to prove it, said defence lawyer Arabi Mabrouk. "The court has not done even basic checks on the defendants," his colleague Mohamed Salama said.
Death sentence recommendations in the case involving Badie were passed on to Egypt's Mufti, the highest religious authority. His opinion, however, is not legally binding and can be ignored by the court.
But after sentencing Badie and his followers, the judge overturned the death penalties of another 492 Muslim Brotherhood members convicted in the same case, as per the recommendation of the Grand Mufti. They received reduced sentences of 25 years, the equivalent of a life sentence.
They were among 528 men sentenced to death on 24 March in one of a series of mass trials that have been widely condemned by human rights campaigners in and out of the country. Among 37 people whose death sentences were confirmed, at least three were already dead on the day of the protest in August 2013, lawyers said. "Among them is Doctor Badawi, who was shot and killed on the day of the incidents which the defendants are accused of," said his sister, Samia Abu Amr, as she held a crumpled sheet of paper listing the names of the 37. Samia added that her brother "had never participated in any protests.â She said his name had been added to the list of defendants solely because "he had refused to give money to a police officer". His case is not unique. Lawyers said two other defendants sentenced to death by the court in Minya for demonstrating in support of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi were already dead on the day of the protest.
On 27 April, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights had requested that the Egyptian Interim Authority immediately suspends their death sentences. The Order came as part of a package of interim measures, which were ordered following a complaint submitted by the Freedom & Justice Party (JFP) on behalf of the 529 people sentenced to death. The complaint submitted to the Commission by the FJP's international legal team details serious violations of the African Charter and international human rights standards. The Commission has asked the Egyptian Authorities to answer charges that the trial of the men was a âcomplete shamâ and constitutes âcollective punishment.â The Commission, which is a principle part of the African Union, also ordered that Egypt upholds the African Union's moratorium on the death penalty and allows those sentenced to death a proper appeal process. (Sources: middleeastmonitor.com, 27/04/2014; dailymail.co.uk, 28/04/2014; emirates247.com, 29/04/2014)