CAIRO: The United States and European Union have added their condemnation to the international response to an Egyptian verdict that sentenced 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death Monday.
The E.U. “opposes capital punishment under all circumstances,” High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catharine Ashton said in a press statement Monday, adding that the death penalty is “cruel and inhumane and it represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity.”
A court in Minya found the 529 men, 382 of whom were tried in absentia, guilty of the murder of a policeman in the aftermath of the dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adaweya and Nahda Square sit-ins.
“It was with utmost concern that I learnt that the court in Minya in southern Egypt sentenced 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death,” Ashton said. “Notwithstanding the serious nature of the crimes for which they were convicted, capital punishment can never be justified.”
Legal expert Ramzy Reyad told The Cairo Post that the death penalty cannot not be cancelled in Egypt. He said such a sentence copes with the rules of Islamic Sharia, which is the main source for legislation according to the Egyptian constitution.
He said the death penalty is still implemented in a number of western countries against those people who commit brutal crimes against humanity.
Reyad said the law provided the defendants a number of guarantees to ensure the integrity of the verdict, including the right to appeal the ruling. He said the court referred the defendants’ papers to the Mufti before issuing the final decision to obtain “religious legitimacy.”
Ashton said the E.U. calls for Egyptian authorities to meet international standards to ensure the defendants’ rights to a fair trial based on clear charges, independent investigations, and to their right to contact lawyers to defend them.
Department of State spokesperson Mary Harf said the U.S. was “pretty shocked,” in the daily press briefing in Washington on Tuesday.
“It simply does not seem possible that a fair review of evidence and testimony, consistent with international standards, could be accomplished with over 529 defendants in a two-day trial. It sort of defies logic,” said Harf, adding that the U.S. had called on the Egyptian government to ensure fair trials for all defendants.
The New York Times allocated one of its editorials to discuss the issue, that the verdict was “a uniquely shocking example of a judicial system run amok.” It said the verdict represents an “outrageous escalation” of the military-led government’s “ruthless crackdown” against the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist supporters of Mohamed Morsi.
A number of Egyptian experts have expressed their rejection to what they have described as “foreign interference” in their judicial affairs, and said such statements “aim to raise skepticism over the integrity of Egypt’s judiciary.”
Tamarod Movement spokesperson Eman Al-Mahdy expressed astonishment over the statements issued by the U.S. official and said, “U.S officials should be accurate in dealing with this issue.”