Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Local and Global Outrage at Minya Court's Verdicts In Egypt on Monday 
Egyptian women respond to court death sentences for 683 activists.
Zeinab El-Gundy , Monday 28 Apr 2014
Ahram Online

Mass death sentence of 683 people, the second in a month, draws pointed condemnation both in Egypt and globally

Many Political figures both inside and outside of Egypt condemned of Monday's ruling by a Minya court to sentence 683 supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi to death.

The defendants were convicted of attacking a police station in Adawa, near the southern city of Minya, and killing a police officer. The Muslim Brotherhood's Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie was among those convicted.

By Egyptian law, their sentences can't be carried out until they are reviewed by the Grand Mufti. Even then, an appeal by both the prosecution and the defendants' lawyers is expected.

It is the second mass death sentence in about a month – both have set records for being the biggest in Egyptian legal history. In March, the same Minya court sentenced 529 Morsi supporters to death for a separate attack on a police station which also left a police officer dead.

On Monday, the same court ruled on its March verdict after it was reviewed by the Grand Mufti. It upheld the death penalty for 37 of the defendants and lowered the sentence for the remaining 492 to life in prison.

After Monday's first ruling – the mass death sentence for 683 people – Osama Mohamed Morsi, son of the ousted president and also a lawyer, wrote on his Facebook page that he had visited Badie during the trial and found that he remained undeterred by the death sentences.

"If they execute a thousand people," Badie allegedly told Morsi, "I won't turn from the righteous path that we've chosen. Because we're not kidding when we said that dying for the sake of God was our most precious wish. May God accept our sacrifices."

Most of the comments under the Facebook post slammed Egypt's judiciary and some offered support to Badie, whose Brotherhood group was designated a terrorist organisation last December by the interim authorities.

In a statement issued from London, the Brotherhood described the ruling as chilling and said it would "continue to use all peaceful means to end military rule," Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, the Strong Egypt party – founded by former Brotherhood member and 2012 presidential candidate Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh – was one of the first Egyptian political parties to slam the criminal court in Minya and its three verdicts.

In a statement issued after Monday's rulings, the party said that all three verdicts – given "without evidence or eye witnesses or hearings or interrogation" – are meant to "bring down the state."

The party warned that such sentences would make the people lose confidence in judicial authority as well other authorities in the country. It called on Egyptians to find peaceful ways to reject the current regime's attempts to "bring down the state" so that Egypt would be protected from "chaos".

The ultra-conservative Salafist Nour Party, which parted ways with the Muslim Brotherhood by supporting the ouster of Morsi last July, also denounced the verdict, describing it as "shocking," Al-Ahram's Arabic website reported.

Nour Party leading member Talaat Marzouk said interim President Adly Mansour should adjust the verdict to avoid its negative domestic and international consequences.

Marzouk added that not respecting international treaties and agreements ratified by Egypt would lead the country into "a dark tunnel", in reference to the United Nation's safeguards against imposing the death penalty without clear and convincing evidence.

On the other hand, Nour Party general secretary Galal Morra refused to comment on the judicial verdicts, according to Al-Ahram Arabic news website.

Human rights lawyer Hafez Abu Seada slammed the court's verdict, insisting that it would be appealed "because there was no opportunity for the defendants to defend themselves legally," he wrote on Twitter.

According to the defendants' lawyers, the court verdict was issued after only two sessions without the introduction of evidence or allowing the defence to present its case.

The international reaction mirrored that from last month, which also pointedly condemned the mass death sentences.

The United States said that it was "deeply troubled" by the verdict, Reuters reported.

"Today's verdict, like the one last month, defies even the most basic standards of international justice. The Egyptian government has the responsibility to ensure that every citizen is afforded due process, including the right to a fair trial in which evidence is clearly presented, and access to an attorney," the White House said in a statement.

"We urge the Egyptian government to end the use of mass trials, reverse this and previous mass sentences, and ensure that every citizen is afforded due process."

The United Nations also released a statement condemning the verdict, Reuters reported.

"The [UN] Secretary-General is alarmed by the news that another preliminary mass death sentence has been handed down today in Egypt, the first of which was on 24 March," said a statement from the UN press office.

"Verdicts that clearly appear not to meet basic fair trial standards, particularly those which impose the death penalty, are likely to undermine prospects for long-term stability," the UN statement added.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt was the first foreign official to comment on the ruling.

"The world must and will react," Bildt tweeted minutes after the news first began to spread online.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said that France was very "worried" about the death sentences on Monday, AFP reported.

He added that France was repeating its calls for the Egyptian authorities to guarantee a fair trial for the defendants, based on an independent investigation that respects the rights of the defendants and adheres to international standards and the Egyptian constitution.

In Turkey, a country at political odds with Egypt over the ouster of Morsi, President Abdullah Gul slammed the court sentences Monday afternoon in a joint press conference with German President Joachim Gauck in the capital Ankara.

"Such decisions are unacceptable in the 21st century. This harms Egypt’s own future. However, Egypt needs peace and economic development," Gul said at the press conference.

"We hope these people will be released" and that a period of free and democratic elections will be reopened in Egypt, he added.

German President Joachim Gauck also criticised the court's verdict at the same conference.

"We cannot understand such a domineering judgment by a temporary government to a society in transition," Gauck said. "Especially in transition periods, a superior jurisdiction system should be established rather than taking revenge."


Egypt court sentences 683 Morsi supporters to death

El-Sayed Gamal El-Deen , Monday 28 Apr 2014

Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie among 683 people sentenced to death by a court in Upper Egypt; court commutes 492 of 529 death sentences passed in an earlier trial

A court in Minya has passed death sentences on 683 supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi, including leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Islamist group's Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie was among the defendants found guilty of attacking Adawa police station and killing a police officer, Mamdouh Kotb Mohamed Kotb, on 14 August 2013 -- following the dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins at Rabaa and Nahda squares.

They were also found guilty of committing violence, rioting, destroying public and private property, attacking police officers, and inciting violence.

The verdicts must be ratified by the grand mufti before they can be carried out.

The court has set 21 June for the final verdict to be passed, after the grand mufti has made his assessment.

The law allows the verdicts to be appealed.

March verdict

The same judge sentenced 529 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood to death in March causing a public outcry locally and internationally.

On Monday, he confirmed 37 of the death sentences and commuted 492 others to life imprisonment upon the instructions of the grand mufti.

The defendants were accused of killing a police officer and storming Matay police station on 14 August 2013.

Khaled El-Koumi, lawyer for one of the defendants sentenced to death, told Ahram Online that he would appeal against the verdict as soon the court has issued its reasoning within the next 60 days.


Egypt's prosecutor-general to appeal 37 death sentences

Ahram Online, Monday 28 Apr 2014

Prosecutor-general cites worries over a lack of justice and law in Monday's verdict, which sentenced 37 to death and 492 others to life in jail

Egypt's prosecutor-general has started routine procedures to arrange an appeal for Monday's verdict upholding the death penalty for 37 people and sentencing 492 others to life in prison, a statement from the prosecutor's office said.

The 529 defendants were initially given a mass death sentence on 24 March, the biggest in Egyptian legal history, before it was reduced for most of them on Monday.

The prosecutor's appeal will include the sentences granted on 24 March, including the acquittal of 17 defendants, and the latest sentences of death and life imprisonment given on Monday.

The appeal is a routine procedure after any final death sentences.

The prosecutor's statement cited its concern for the "the proper administration of justice and application of the correct law" and stressed that it was utilising a routine procedure of appeals for death sentences in Egypt.

The 529 people were accused of attacking a Matay police station in south Egypt and killing a police officer on 14 August 2014, as part of the eruption of nationwide violence following the dispersal of two Cairo sit-ins for ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

They were also accused of destroying public and private property, joining a banned group, rioting and inciting violence.

Monday's verdict was announced after Egypt's Grand Mufti finished reviewing the original 529 death sentences.

The Grand Mufti's view is not binding but must be sought before death sentences are carried out.

Lawyers of the 37 people sentenced to death said they would also appeal the verdicts.

In a separate trial, the same court on Monday sentenced 683 people to death for attacking an Adawa police station and killing an officer, also after the violent dispersals in August.


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