Top court adjourns decision on challenge of executed Arab Sharkas ‘terrorists’
Families of six convicts hanged to death at Arab Sharkas case - YOUM7/Hazem Abdul Samad

CAIRO:  The Court of Administrative Judiciary postponed its decision on the challenge of six executed men against their death sentence to June 2; they were hanged to death two days before the court’s Tuesday session.

The authorities hanged the six convicts to death Sunday per a military trial known in the Egyptian media as the case of “the Arab Sharkas,” a Delta town in Qalyubia. The Six convicts, some of whom allegedly belong to Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, were hanged to death Sunday for the separate killing of police and military officers March 13-19, 2014.

Another convict was sentenced to death in absentia, while two others were sentenced to life over the same charges.

“The executions were carried out although the Military Attorney-General had been notified in writing of the challenge, and despite of filing a notification before the State Lawsuit Authority,” lawyer of two of the convicts Hussein Refaat told The Cairo Post Monday.

Those who ordered the executions be carried out should be tried if the challenge were accepted, Refaat said, while former dean of Cairo University’s Faculty of Law Mahmoud Kibeish said the hanged men’s families would be entitled for compensation.

Defendants arrested before charges in trial were committed

Refaat said “all hanged convicts were arrested before the [crimes] were committed.”

One of the convicts, Mohamed Bakry Haroun, 31, was detained on Nov. 28, 2013, according to the Freedom to the Brave, a movement dedicated to advocate political prisoners. He was arrested in 10th of Ramadan city, 46 kilometers from Cairo, lawyer Bouthaina al-Qammash told Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr in January.

Mustafa Hani Amer, 32, was detained on Dec. 16, 2013 in Ismailia, northeast of Egypt, when he was in the governorate’s municipal council to produce a permit for his shop. As his mother was not informed of his detention, she reported his disappearance to the Ministry of Interior and Ismailia Security Directorate on Dec. 17, 2013.

On Jan. 27, 2014, his family was informed he was detained in Ismailia’s Azouly military prison. On Feb. 5, 2014, his mother filed a complaint to Attorney-General Hesham Barakat about his detention in a military prison, according to Freedom to the Brave. He was transferred to Cairo’s Scorpion prison in March 2014.

Another convict, Mohamed Ali Afifi, was arrested in his home in the Delta’s Tanta, north of Cairo, on Nov. 19, 2013, according to Freedom to the Brave. The other three convicts were detained on March 16, 2014 in 6th of October city.

Amnesty International said in an April 2015 petition that most of the convicts were detained before the crimes with which they were charged occurred, adding that they confessed to committing the crimes “under torture.”

For its part, the Ministry of Interior announced March 19, 2014 that security forces attacked the Arab Sharkas town, arresting of eight defendants and killing six “terrorists” in an exchange of fire.

The executed convicts committed more than 40 “terrorist acts,” Assistant to Minister of Interior Abou Bakr Abdel Karim told CBC channel Sunday, after the execution. He denied reports of their earlier detention.

What are the convicts’ crimes?

Haroun, along with 212 others, were charged with belonging to Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, a “terrorist organization” in Egypt, the U.S. and some Gulf states, and recruiting fighters to the group, according to prosecution investigations reported by Youm7 April 13, 2014.

All the defendants are accused of the November 2013 assassination of General Mohamed Mabrouk , who was investigating former President Mohamed Morsi’s escape from prison in January 2011. Ultimately, Morsi was sentenced to death Saturday in the said case.

Abdel Rahaman Sayed Rezq, one of the hanged men, was also standing another trial before a civilian court over charges of belonging to a “terrorist cell” led by Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s brother, Mohamed. The Prison Sector Authority notified the presiding judge of trial during a Sunday hearing that Rezq had been executed.

All the pending criminal charges of the hanged men will be dropped due to their death, legal expert Kibeish said.

If a defendant faces two trials; one before a military court and another before a civilian one, whichever issues a final sentence earlier is entitled to carry it out, including a death sentence, expert of criminal sciences General Refaat Abdel Hamid told The Cairo Post.  In case of execution, the pending trial second will be dropped, he said.

Military trials: civil resistance and amendments

The military court referred the death sentence of the six convicts to Grand Mufti Shawki Allam Aug. 26, 2014 for advice, and the penalty was ratified by Minister of Defense Sedqi Sobhi on Nov. 11, 2014.

The convicts’ families, however, challenged the capacity of Sobhi to sign the ratification of the sentence before the Court of Administrative Judiciary, whose judges are civilians, according to lawyer Refaat.  The ruling was upheld March 24, 2015.

The military capital punishment must be ratified by the president; however, Article 97 of the military law stipulates that the president may mandate a military officer the authority to ratify military rulings.

Military courts were obligated to consider a retrial and seek the Grand Mufti’s unbinding religious opinion before upholding a death sentence as recently as April 2014, per a decree by interim President Adly Mansour, who was the head of the Constitutional Court.

After the 2011 upheaval, many activists and citizens voiced their demand to abolish military trials for civilians. The No to Military Trials for Civilians pressure group soon emerged, but its last protest was held in November 2013 in Cairo to urge drafters of the 2014 constitution to not adopt such trials in the document.

Edited by Hanan Fayed

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