Egyptian court condemns 10 Muslim Brotherhood members to death for carrying out attacks against security forces

The death sentences were issued a day after the US government canceled military aid worth USD 130 million to Egypt over the declining human rights record

January 31, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Egypt death sentences
Photo: Khaleej Times

On Sunday, January 30, an Egyptian criminal court in Cairo sentenced 10 members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to death for planning attacks against the security forces. The 10 men were convicted for multiple violent attacks against the security forces from 2013 to 2015 as part of the ‘Helwan Brigades’ which they had allegedly formed in the aftermath of the 2013 military coup by then army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi against the first democratically elected president of Egypt and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi. Their ultimate aim was allegedly to overthrow the military regime in the country which had initiated a massive crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups.

According to news reports, the identities of the 10 men have not been revealed and it is not yet known how they pleaded the charges. Nine of them are already in custody while one was sentenced in absentia. Among those convicted was Yehia Moussa, a health ministry spokesperson in the previous elected government. He was accused of planning and executing the assassination of former prosecutor-general Hisham Barakat in 2015. The men were prosecuted for acts of violence against the police allegedly committed between August 14, 2013 and February 2, 2015 in the cities of Cairo and Giza, as well as for “vandalizing public properties and facilities, including power towers.”

The death sentences will now be referred to the Grand Mufti, the top religious authority in Egypt, who has to ratify them. The court will then hold a hearing on June 19 to issue a final verdict. Reports suggest that the Mufti’s theological opinion is merely a formality as the el-Sisi regime has consistently used the death penalty against its opponents and critics during its campaign of repression. 

Death penalty watchdogs note that Egypt carried out the third highest number of executions in the world last year, counting only the ones that are publicly known. Along with its use of death penalty, Egypt has also come under fire for holding mass trials for hundreds of prisoners which have been slammed as unfair ‘show trials’. The regime has also been denounced for holding around 60,000 Egyptians as political prisoners. Among them are political opposition and civil society figures, human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and critics. 

The death sentences were issued a day after the US government announced the cancellation of USD 130 million worth of military aid to Egypt, out of the total package of USD 300 million, which was put on hold last year due to human rights concerns. Only USD 170 million was transferred to Egypt last year with the rest made conditional on Egypt meeting certain human rights criteria. Several US congress members in a letter last week had urged the administration to redirect the aid to other programs due to the continually deteriorating human rights situation in Egypt. Meanwhile, the US government last week approved a massive weapons deal worth USD 2.5 billion with Egypt. The administration of US president Joe Biden, who during his presidential campaign had vowed to hold military despots and authoritarian regimes accountable for their human rights violations, has said that the military aid and the arms sales are unrelated. The US claims that the arms deal is to support its national security and foreign policy interests.

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