CAIRO: Minister of Justice Nayer Othman conducted a press conference Saturday at the Ministry of Justice, deflected criticism of recent mass death sentences issued against alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters and denied the courts made any decisions for political reasons.
Othman blamed the media for what he described as the “biased” approach adopted against the judiciary. He also added that the courts did not really sentence hundreds of people to death because the judge referred the verdicts to Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam, and he did not make a decision. He also said the defendants have the right to appeal.
Despite Othman’s comments, in two separate trials, a Minya court sentenced to death 638 alleged MB members, including MB Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie in April, and earlier in March, the same judge sentenced to death 529 men in a decision Amnesty International called “grotesque.”
Many of the sentences were later thrown out and Attorney General Hisham Barakat almost immediately issued an appeal of the April rulings, but this didn’t halt criticism that the judiciary had become politicized.
But Othman denied the verdicts were related to politics, and said that Egypt’s judiciary is independent. He condemned what he described as “international interference” in Egypt’s judicial affairs and stressed the need for respecting the independence of Egypt’s judicial authority.
Othman also stressed the judiciary’s commitment to human rights, and said that a judge must be convinced the defendant committed the violation to make a decision and that defendants have a right to a fair trial.