I’ve previously posted on the case of the 529 members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt who were sentenced to death for the murder of a policeman during violent protests. The Guardian reports that the judge has upheld the death sentences of 37 of those 529 Brotherhood members; the rest now face 25 year prison sentences in place of the death sentence.
However, The Guardian further reports that that same judge, Saeed Youssef, has also sentenced a further 683 men to death on charges of killing a policeman in Minya in August 2013. The way this second “trial” has been carried out is eerily similar to the first:
Lawyers and rights campaigners said the sentences in the two mass trials resulted from rushed proceedings that infringed basic local and international law.
Mohamed Elmessiry, an Amnesty International researcher who attended the hearings, said: “In each trial, the defence were not able to present their case, the witnesses were not heard, and many of the accused were not brought to the courtroom. This lacks any basic guarantees of a fair trial – not only under international law, but also Egyptian national law.
“The trials themselves are a death sentence to any remaining credibility and independence of Egypt’s criminal justice system.”
The Court documents which form the basis of the Police case numbered over 6,000 pages, and it has been argued that the judge could not possibly have had time to even read the evidence, let alone find the specific evidence related to each of the 683 defendants.
Worse, it’s alleged that some of the defendants were not even mentioned in the documents. For instance a defence lawyer, Ahmed Eid, who acted for some of the 529 defendants in the original trial, has been sentenced to death. His family allege that there is no mention of him in the 6,000 pages of evidence, that he was arrested after the case was referred to the Court, and that the arrest occurred because he had failed to pay a bribe to police.
Of course, this is the work of a single judge (although the original 37 death sentences have already been upheld by Egypt’s Grand Mufti, to whom all death penalty cases must be referred), and all of the sentences are now subject to appeal. However, if those appeals fail it will show that there is no longer a rule of law in Egypt. The international community should be readying itself to remove international aid funds from Egypt.