An Egyptian kangaroo court on Thursday sentenced 24 members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death in two separate cases, the daily Sabah reported.
The state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper said the Damanhour Criminal Court ordered the death penalty for 16 defendants affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, including Mohamed Sweidan, a regional leader of the organization, for their involvement in the bombing of a police bus in Rashid (Rosetta) city in the Beheira governorate in 2015.
Six of the defendants were tried in absentia. The report added that the blast killed three police officers and wounded 39 others. The same court also handed down the death penalty to eight Muslim Brotherhood members, including two in absentia, who were accused of killing a police officer in December 2014 in Ad Dilinjat city in Beheira.
There are no exact figures for death penalties issued in Egypt this year except for 10 handed down in April and those upheld against 12 Muslim Brotherhood leaders over the Rabaa sit-in dispersal case in 2013.
Founded in 1928 in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood became the main opposition movement in Egypt despite decades of crackdown, and has inspired side movements and political parties throughout the Muslim world. But it is still banned in several countries, including Egypt, for its alleged links to terrorism.
Earlier in 2021, Amnesty International denounced Egypt’s “significant spike” in recorded executions. The human rights organization estimated a more than threefold rise to 107 last year, from 32 in 2019.
American Muslim groups urge suspension of US aid to Egypt until el-Sisi Regime cancels politically-motivated executions
The US Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), the largest coalition of major national, regional, and local Muslim organizations, on June 28 sent a letter to Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken calling on the Biden administration and Congress to demand that “the Egyptian government halt its plans to conduct a mass execution of democracy activists, faith leaders, and other political prisoners in the coming days.”
The USCMO letter in part said:
Indeed, Egypt is ruled by a brutal military dictatorship with no regard for human rights, democracy, or justice. Under the military’s reign, Egypt has become the world’s third-largest executioner. In October and November 2020 alone, the junta executed 57 men and women. A 2020 Amnesty International report found that of those 57 people, over a quarter were “sentenced to death in cases relating to political violence following grossly unfair trials marred by forced ‘confessions’ and other serious human rights violations including torture and enforced disappearances.”
So far in 2021, 51 men and women have been put to death, including a Christian monk. In 2014, Impartial UN experts described the Egyptian government’s mass executions of political prisoners as a “continuing and unacceptable mockery of justice that casts a big shadow over the Egyptian legal system.”
The mass detention of political prisoners has been ongoing since 2013, when the Egyptian military overthrew the democratically elected government and massacred over a thousand anti–coup demonstrators at Rabaa Square, an atrocity Human Rights Watch called “the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history.”
Egypt the third-most prolific executioner in the world after China and Iran
Since the rise to power of Field Marshad Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt following the overthrow of his predecessor Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, the country has seen a wave of repression against political dissidents, sparking outrage from human rights organizations.
The widespread use of the death penalty has become a major focus for concern, as hundreds of people have been sentenced to death since 2013. So far, at least 51 men and women have been executed in 2021 alone, according to the Middle East Eye.
In 2020, the number of executions in Egypt tripled from the year before, making the country the third-most prolific executioner after China and Iran, according to Amnesty International.
Many of those executed have been described by rights groups as “prisoners of conscience” detained due to their political opposition to the el-Sisi government.
According to the Geneva-based Committee for Justice rights group, at least 92 opponents of el-Sisi have been executed since 2013, and final death sentences have been issued for 64 others who may be executed at any moment.
No End to Escalating Repression
Egyptian authorities intensified their repression of peaceful government critics and ordinary people during 2020, virtually obliterating any space for peaceful assembly, association or expression, Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2021.
The parliament approved President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s extension of a nationwide state of emergency for the fourth year in a row. The authorities used the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to silence critics including health workers, journalists and bloggers, and to keep hundreds, if not thousands, of detainees in pre-trial detention without judicial review. In May, President al-Sisi approved amendments to the Emergency Law that expanded the executive branch’s power. The Covid-19 outbreak exacerbated abysmal detention conditions, with a ban on prison visits from March to August without alternative means of communication. Dozens of prisoners died in custody, including at least 14 apparently due to Covid-19.
“Ten years after Egyptians ousted Hosni Mubarak, they now live under the harsher, suffocating security grip of President al-Sisi’s government,” said Amr Magdi, Middle East and North Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
The Interior Ministry’s National Security Agency (NSA) and other security forces forcibly disappeared, arbitrarily arrested, and tortured detainees, including children. Many arrests were made on baseless charges of “joining a terrorist group” and “spreading false news.” Families of dissidents abroad were also subjected to collective punishment, including home raids and arrests. In September and October, the authorities arrested over 1,000 protesters, dissidents, and bystanders in response to small but widespread protests across the country.