CFJ condemns Egypt’s use of the death penalty in new court verdicts
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CFJ, Geneva, 29 September 2020
The Committee for Justice (CFJ) said on Tuesday that the verdicts issued today by Egypt’s Cassation Court in the case known as “The Popular Resistance Committee in Kerdasa”, upholding the death penalty for six defendants, represent a consolidation of the policy of expansion of death sentences adopted in Egypt. The verdicts are based on flimsy investigations and confessions extracted under pressure and torture.
The Egyptian Court of Cassation, the country’s highest appeals court, upheld on Tuesday 29 September death sentences for six defendants in this case.
The defendants are: Ahmed Abdel-Rahman Mahmoud Al-Battawi, Mohamed Abdel-Latif Hanafi Al-Sayed Rifai, Mohamed Salah Saeed Abd Rabbo, Islam Kamal Abu Al-Fotouh Matarah, Islam Mahmoud Abdel-Fattah Abu Al-Majd, and Fayez Zaki Ali Abu Dagher. All were in custody, except for Dagher who was sentenced in absentia.
Commenting on these rulings, CFJ’s Executive Director Ahmed Mefreh, said: “The Egyptian judiciary is continuing its approach of expanding the issuance of death sentences, in violation of basic human rights, including the right to life, and all of this is based on dubious security services’ investigations.or confessions extracted under torture.”
The Egyptian Public Prosecution had charged 70 defendants in the case with accusations of: establishing and managing the “Popular Resistance Committee in Nahia and Kerdasa,” which was allegedly established in contravention of the provisions of the constitution and laws, with the aim of calling for the suspension of the constitution and laws, and preventing state institutions from carrying out their work.
The group allegedly resorted to “terrorism and violence” as a means to achieve their objectives. They were also charged with killing three victims, including a police chief in the national security agency, possession of firearms and ammunition as well as TNT explosives, aiding others in escaping from the judiciary, and the use of force and violence against public officials.
On 22 May, 2019, the Cairo Criminal Court, held at the Police Academy, chaired by Judge Shaaban Al-Shami, and with Yasser Al-Ahmadawi and Osama Abdel Zahir as advisors, decided to transfer the rulings of 6 of the 70 defendants to the Mufti of the Republic, to take his non-binding legal opinion on their execution. The court scheduled a session for 19 June 2019 for the verdict on the remaining defendants to be announced. Then it decided to extend the deadline for pronouncing the verdict to the hearing of 19 August 2019, to complete the deliberation, when it issued an initial death sentence, which was later upheld by the cassation court on Tuesday.
In our reading of the grounds of the verdict, as announced by the court, we find that it is dominated by political slogans, in a clear proof of the court’s bias against the defendants due to political differences. The court described the defendants in the ruling as “a group of evil people who founded and managed a demonic group that emerged from the depths of hell.” It added that “They called it the Coalition of Supporting Legitimacy, the Popular Resistance Committee in Nahia and Kerdasa”.
The Coalition of Supporting Legitimacy was made up of parties and organisations supportive of the late Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Citing this coalition is a clear politicisation of the judiciary.
Mafreh called on the international community to put more pressure on Egyptian authorities to stop the expansion in the issuance of death sentences, especially since the majority of these sentences were issued against defendants in political cases and opponents of the current regime.
CFJ also stresses that death sentences are generally inconsistent with the right to life, which is a basic human right. In light of the lack of full guarantees for a fair trial in the current Egyptian judicial system, today’s ruling is a blatant violation of this human right.
We call for the cessation of these death sentences, defending the right to life, and the retrials of the defendants before courts that meet international standards of justice, where remedies are achieved, and whose sentences are far removed from any pressure or political whims.
Egyptian courts in recent years issued approximately 2595 death sentences, during the period from 2011 to 2018, including collective death sentences issued by exceptional courts, whose members were chosen to rule on certain defendants and certain cases, in violation of the impartiality and independence of the judiciary stipulated in the constitution and the law.