On Tuesday, an Egyptian court sentenced 10 militants to death and 56 militants to life in prison over terrorism-related crimes. The militants are part of an outlawed Muslim Brotherhood which planned fatal attacks on police personnel and civilians, and damaged state infrastructure between August 2013 and February 2015.
The identities of the defendants as well as their pleas in the case remain undisclosed.
However, Rights group Amnesty International called the trial grossly unfair and an “insult to justice”, and called for the sentences to be quelled.
"Authorities must quash the verdict and order the release of detainees, most of whom had been held for over two years in pretrial detention in contravention of Egyptian law," said Amna Guellali of Amnesty International. Guellali alleged that the case was "marred by enforced disappearances and torture" and accused the government of keeping the prisoners in “cruel and inhuman conditions”.
The court held a mass trial with over 200 defendants. 43 defendants were acquitted. 35 defendants were sentenced to 10 years in prison, while 53 defendants were sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Those who were sentenced to life in prison will serve jail time of 25 years according to Egyptian law, while those sentenced to death will die by hanging.
With this case, Egypt has mounted one of the biggest crackdowns on the Brotherhood in recent times, following the army’s ousting of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, the country’s first freely-elected president, in 2013.
The Egyptian government considers the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, although they claim to be committed to peaceful change.
The group of 10 militants called themselves “Helwan Brigades” in reference to Helwan, a southern suburb of Cairo. MENA, the state news agency, said the group were part of a broader scheme to attack police targets in Cairo in a bid to overthrow the regime.
The group first gained notoriety in 2014, in a video which showed 15 masked armed men threatening to carry out an attack against the police in Southern Cairo. The video was posted and circulated on social media.
Aside from premeditated murder charges, the charges against them include creating an illegal group, sabotaging public infrastructure, incitement of violation of the constitution and law, assaulting personal freedoms of citizens and harming national unity and social peace.
In 2018, Egypt’s Cassation placed 135 defendants in the trial on Egypt’s terrorist list for a three-year term
According to Amnesty, Egypt – the Arab world’s most populous country – carried out the third highest number of known executions in the world in 2021, behind China and Iran.
On June 24, the US government announced that it would cancel $130 million in military aid over human rights concerns. Days prior, the US government had approved $2.5 billion in arms sales to the North African country.
The US State Department said that Egypt was yet to meat the conditions to receive the $130 million military fund which has been on hold since September, 2021.
Sources: Reuters, Al Jazeera, Ahram Online