Egypt: New mass death sentences in Minya despite international outcry
The Committee for Justice (CFJ) has condemned Egypt’s continued issuing of mass death sentences despite apparent violations of due process.
The Egyptian Minya Criminal Court on September 13, 2021 sentenced four people to death in a case that included 74 defendants. The case is registered under no. 9310 Felonies Samalout Center, and also as No. 868 of 2014/North Minya.
The court is headed by judge Ashraf Mohamed Ali, and includes among its members Judges Salah El-Sherbiny, Ahmed Saleh, and Mohamed Makram.
The trial lacks internationally recognized fair trial standards, in addition to many violations, including extracting confessions from defendants under torture, and sentencing them based on those confessions.
The Egyptian Public Prosecution had brought several charges against 119 defendants, including: founding a group in violation of the law, gathering, sabotaging public facilities, inciting violence, inciting riots, chaos, blocking roads, disturbing security and public peace, murder and attempted murder, smuggling prisoners, and stealing money and weapons.
On September 15, 2015, the court issued verdicts in presence and in absentia, ranging from execution in absentia for eight defendants, to life sentences and rigorous imprisonment. Later, 74 of the defendants in this case were arrested for retrial.
CFJ stated that it has been able to obtain the names of the four defendants who were sentenced to death, as follows: Mohammed Abdel Hamid Mohamed Ali, Khaled Mohamed Abdel Razek Ahmed, Ashour Khalil Amin Khalil, and Ibrahim Wardani Mahmoud Ahmed.
The organization also indicated that it has documented numerous violations that marred the investigation and trial processes in that case, including the torture of the defendants by Egyptian security agencies to pressure them to confess. One of the defendants proved that he was in Cairo because he arrived from Saudi Arabia on August 14, 2015, the day of the events. However, the case papers claim that he confessed to committing the crime, which further confirms the fabrication of charges by the detective and the National Security.
CFJ added that a large number of the defendants were being held at Samalout police station in connection with criminal rulings, although they have nothing to do with the events.
As for the stages of the trial, CFJ has documented the court’s complete reliance on national security investigations in proving the accusations against the defendants, and the lack of opportunity for the defendants’ lawyers, who were not allowed to speak with witnesses to refute their testimony and to seriously discuss the allegations to reveal the truth.
CFJ also mentioned the existence of several contradictions in the technical reports in the case, which led to attributing crimes that did not occur to the defendants. The prosecution also did not refute the CDs attached to the case. The CDs failed to prove any connection between the defendants and the alleged crimes.
CFJ reiterated that the due process violations in the above case reflect the lack of transparency and impartiality throughout the stages of the case.
In terms of the stages of arrest, investigation and trial, CFJ pointed out that it will provide a detailed analysis of the case and its papers through its platform, Justice Watch Archive, which also contains detailed and accurate analyses of dozens of cases, hundreds of defendants, and places of detention in Egypt.
CFJ believes that the verdicts issued in this case are politicized. This was confirmed by several UN human rights experts in a UN memorandum, where they stated that death sentences in Egypt are regularly issued after procedures that do not always comply with due process and fair trial standards, including in mass trials. They argued that defendants are routinely subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including for the purpose of forcing them to confess guilt.
UN experts also pointed out that the use of the death penalty in Egypt has increased at an unprecedented rate in the past two years, noting that executions carried out in the country have risen to a total of 54 sentences since the beginning of 2021. In 2020, at least 107 death sentences were carried out, which represents an increase of more than three times the sentences carried out in 2019, which amounted to only 32 sentences.
CFJ called on the Egyptian authorities to officially halt these and other executions carried out en masse, with the aim of ensuring that all death sentences are properly reviewed, as convictions are based on unfair trials. Individuals must be retried and fully comply with international human rights law and standards during their trial.
The organization also asked Egypt to stop the emergency law which violates the right of the defendants to appeals, which violated the basic right of the defendants to life, and became a legal pretext for further human rights violations against Egyptians.
CFJ also called on the international community and United Nations mechanisms to put more pressure on the authorities in Egypt to stop human rights violations against detainees, and to stop issuing mass death sentences, which flagrantly violate the defendants’ basic right to life.