Egypt blasted over mass death sentences
Burnt Kerdasa police station - YOUM7 (Archive)

CAIRO:  Egypt has been criticized by a number of countries and international organizations over a mass death sentence handed down to 183 persons accused of killing 11 police officers in Kerdasa in Giza governorate in 2013.

The Giza Criminal court issued the official sentence after taking the advisory opinion of Grand Mufti Shawky Allam. The initial sentence was passed Dec. 3.

“We strongly condemn the confirmation of the death sentences of 183 persons, constituting a new contingent of the mass death sentences, reaching up to 1,000 persons, in the framework of the political decisions taken at the courts following the coup in Egypt in July 2013,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry stated Tuesday.

“It is obvious that Egypt, where the number of political prisoners has risen to 20,000 since the coup in 2013, cannot reach lasting peace and stability through mass death sentences, which hurt human consciences and fall short of fair trial,” the statement read.

Rulings of executions go through several levels of litigation and in many cases are commuted. Those sentenced in absentia are usually retried once apprehended.

With 12 cases, Egypt ranked 17th out of 82 countries that executed convicts in 2007-2012, according to an Amnesty International report.  China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the U.S. topped the list.
However, in June 2014 alone, Egypt executed some 10 people on charges of murder, rape and robbery, according to numerous media reports.

Some of the crimes punishable by death in Egypt are murder, rape, abduction, drug trafficking, treason, espionage and terrorism.

The defendants face charges of storming Kerdasa Police Station in August 2013 after the dispersal of the pro-Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins of Rabaa al-Adaweya and Nahda Squares on Aug. 14, 2013. Eleven police officers were killed, and their bodies mutilated. A number of police vehicles were also burned.

A minor defendant was sentenced Monday to 10 years in jail; while two others were acquitted. The case was dropped for other two defendants who have since died.

The European Union in Egypt condemned the mass sentences, saying they are “violation of Egypt’s international human rights obligations in a Tuesday statement.

“The EU opposes capital punishment under all circumstances and considers it cruel and inhuman, failing to act as a deterrent and representing a denial of human dignity and integrity,” the statement read.

The United States, which has and uses the death penalty, expressed is concerns over the sentences; it offered, however, its condolences to the 11 police officers’ families.

“The United States is deeply concerned by the decision of an Egyptian court to uphold 183 mass death sentences. It simply seems impossible that a fair review of evidence and testimony could be achieved through mass trials. We continue to call on the Government of Egypt to ensure due process for the accused on the merits of individual cases for all Egyptians and discontinue the practice of mass trials,” said U.S. Department of State spokesperson Jen Psaki Monday evening in the daily press briefing.

International Amnesty also criticized the Egyptian judicial system, describing the trial as “unfair” and contradictory to international human rights standards.

“Today’s death sentences are yet another example of the bias of the Egyptian criminal justice system. These verdicts and sentences must be quashed and all of those convicted should be given a trial that meets international standards of fairness and excludes the death penalty,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa deputy program director at Amnesty International, in a statement Monday.

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