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Egypt: CFJ demands halt to ‘Heliopolis Cell’ death sentences, Urges review of terrorism laws

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The Committee for Justice has expressed grave concern following the recent confirmation of death sentences by the Egyptian Court of Cassation in the Heliopolis Cell case. On Thursday, December 28, 2023, the court upheld the death sentence by hanging, previously issued at the start of last year, against the citizen Hassan Sayed Ahmed Hamed Osman. This affirmation of the death penalty raises significant alarm about the judicial process’s adherence to international standards of fairness and the broader state of human rights in the region.

These sentences are part of a verdict stemming from proceedings conducted by the third circuit (terrorism) on January 23, 2023. Led by judge Wagdy Abdel Moneim and with the participation of judges Wael Omran and Mohamed Nabil, the court, convened at the Badr Court Complex, handed down death sentences to 6 individuals (one appearing in person and the others in absentia), and life imprisonment to a seventh defendant. These sentences were issued in connection to case number 2177 for the year 2022, North Cairo , registered under number 8448 for the year 2022, Heliopolis Felonies, and under number 2103 for the year 2021, Supreme State Security, known in media as “Heliopolis Cell” case.

The defendants were accused of a spectrum of grave offenses, including membership in a terrorist group designed to hinder the functioning of state institutions and public authorities. This group was reportedly established in violation of constitutional and legal norms. Charges against the individuals included financing terrorist activities, supplying weapons and ammunition with the knowledge of their intended use in hostile actions against police and citizens, damaging the national interests of the country, and assaulting the personal freedoms of the citizens.

The Committee for Justice has critically noted that these death sentences connected to terrorism cases in Egypt were handed down following judicial processes that did not meet the globally accepted standards for a fair trial or due process.

Ahmed Mefreh, the executive director of the Committee for Justice, commented on the verdict, saying, “The Egyptian regime continues to violate the procedural judicial rules that the international community has accepted. Terrorism cases in Egypt lack the least elements of fair trials, and result in death sentences based on accusations lacking substantial evidence, merely based on office security investigations. This grossly undermines the defendants’ rights to life, freedom, and a fair judicial process.”

The individuals sentenced to death are:

Hassan Sayed Ahmed Hamed Osman (36 years old) – present in person.

Mohamed Saad Kamel Saad (37 years old) – absent.

Mohamed Khalil Abdel Ghani Mohamed (41 years old) – absent.

Abdullah Naeem Mohamed Abdel Muttalib (35 years old) – absent.

Youssef Awad Isaid Awad Abou Sheikha (25 years old) – absent.

Antar Mohamed Ibrahim Attia (36 years old) – absent.

Furthermore, Abdel Qader Ibrahim Said Ouda Abou Sheikha, (48 years old), was sentenced to life while in custody.

In light of these judicial decisions, CFJ urgently calls for a suspension of the death sentences, for both in-person and absentia cases. This moratorium is seen as a critical first step in addressing the deep-rooted issues in Egypt’s legal and human rights systems. CFJ highlights the need for a thorough revision of Egypt’s counter-terrorism laws, ensuring they align with international conventions and treaties that Egypt has ratified.

Moreover, CFJ urges the Egyptian authorities to respond to international appeals for the abolition of the death penalty and to consider replacing it with milder forms of punishment. It also calls upon the global community and UN mechanisms to closely monitor the situation in Egypt and to exert pressure on the national authorities to end the pattern of political executions and the continuous, tragic loss of lives.

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