Target: Nayer Abdel-Moneim Othman, Minister of Justice
Goal: Overturn over 500 death sentences handed down as the result of a mass trial, and ensure that defendants are given fair legal proceedings
It is one of the largest mass death sentences ever handed down: 528 people are sentenced to die for the roles they played in pro-Morsi protests during the summer of 2013. Most of the defendants were not even present for the trial, and the proceedings violate numerous international human rights standards. Sign the petition and tell the Minister of Justice to ensure that all defendants are treated fairly and humanely in Egyptian courts.
The mass trial involved a total of 545 people whose charges, according to Amnesty International, range from “murdering a police officer” and “attempted murder of two police officers” to “setting fire to Mattay police station in the governorate of Minya and stealing firearms from it on 14 August 2013” and “administering and belonging to a banned group.” Although 118 of the defendants were in custody at the time of the trial, just over half of them were actually present for the hearing. The trial was riddled with irregularities: the charges against the defendants were not read out, the defense was not allowed to cross-examine witnesses, none of the evidence against the accused was reviewed in court, and the judge denied the defense’s request for more time to go through the more than three thousand pages of case documents. When defense lawyers objected to the way the trial was being conducted, the judge called in armed guards, who surrounded the lawyers. When the trial resumed two days later, neither the defendants nor their lawyers were even allowed in the courtroom.
The death sentences are not yet finalized; under Egyptian law, all potential capital punishments must be referred to the Grand Mufti, Egypt’s highest religious official. However, any decisions made by the Grand Mufti are advisory only; the judge has the final say. Given the way that the rest of the trial was conducted, there does not appear to be much hope for the 528 people whose cases are now being reviewed by the Grand Mufti.
Egypt is a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and is therefore bound to maintain an acceptable standard of human rights. However, many of the conditions of the covenant have been violated by this grossly mismanaged, unfair mass trial. Sign the petition and remind Egypt of its obligations to both its own citizens and to the global community.
I am writing to express my deep concern for the fates of the 528 people whose cases are under review with the Grand Mufti. Condemned in a mass trial that violated both Egyptian law and international human rights standards, these defendants have a right to be retried under fairer, more suitable circumstances. I urge you to overturn the death sentences of the 528 accused and to retry their cases.
The mass trial of 545 people for their roles in the pro-Morsi riots of summer 2013 exhibited a number of irregularities: the charges against the accused were not read out (a blatant violation of the law), the defense was not allowed to cross-examine witnesses, and the evidence against the defendants was not reviewed in court. Only 64 of the 545 defendants were even present for the first day of their trial. For the second day of the trial, not a single one of the defendants was allowed to be present–and even more disturbingly, not a single defense lawyer was present either. This did not prevent 528 of the accused from being sentenced to death.
Egyptian law states that anyone sentenced in absentia has the right to a retrial. By this standard, all of the 545 defendants have the right to a new trial. Furthermore, Egypt is a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which, according to Amnesty International, entitles the accused to “a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.” It also guarantees defendants the right to be informed of the charges against them, have time to prepare a defense, and be able to question the witnesses against them. The mass trial violated each and every one of these rights.
There is only one proper course of action: overturn the death sentences of the 528 defendants and retry each of the 545 cases. Egypt is bound by both its own laws and international human rights agreements, and the world is watching.
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Photo credit: Patrick Feller via Flickr