Sisi explains mass death sentences, underscores Egypt’s “counter terrorism” role
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi address a joint news conference following talks at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany June 3, 2015. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

CAIRO: Defending mass death sentences given to Muslim Brotherhood members, Germany-visiting President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said Wednesday the rulings are not final and that the Egyptian Criminal Code allows up to three trials.

“Most of the death sentences were issued in absentia; these rulings are dropped with force of law once the defendant, tried in absentia, appears at the court. And then normal litigation procedures start,” Sisi said in a press conference held with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

The Cairo Criminal Court will uphold or cancel a death sentence handed down to former President Mohamed Morsi and 105 others June 16. The ruling was issued over charges of a jailbreak incident in 2011.

Sisi also noted that referring any sentence to the Grand Mufti cannot be considered a death sentence, as the judge does not pronounce the ruling before the Mufti advises his unbinding religious opinion.

The German Chancellor expressed her country’s willingness to support and invest in Egypt, saying that points of view have been exchanged between both leaders; however, she added “I hope the problem of death sentences could be solved.”

Both sides tackled national, regional and international developments, besides bilateral relations in all fields. The two countries have agreed on a joint development program to last until 2030, Sisi noted.

Cairo’s hosting the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa in May 2016 means that Egypt is willing to carry out its economic reform program and to promote international investments in Egypt, the President continued.

Regarding international efforts of “combating terrorism,” Sisi said “if the Egyptian people did not address religious fascism, the region’s fate would have been completely different.”

Following the mass death sentences, Egypt has been slammed on violating human rights; and a meeting between Sisi and Bundestag President Norbert Lammert has been canceled by the latter.

In a joint letter to the Chancellor a day before Sisi’s visit, five prominent human rights organizations urged Merkel to “make clear” to Sisi that close Egyptian-German relations depend on amending the controversial 2013 protest law, holding civilian and fair retrials for jailed Muslim Brotherhood supporters, abolishing the death penalty, setting measures to end sexual abuse, and ensuring that all detention places comply with international standards.

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