Egypt: Court recommends death sentences for Morsi, more than 100 others, in ‘charade trials’

16 May 2015, 12:07 UTC

An Egyptian court’s recommendation today to sentence ousted president Mohamed Morsi and more than 100 other defendants to death after grossly unfair trials shows the deplorable state of the country’s criminal justice system, said Amnesty International.

“Condemning Mohamed Morsi to death after more grossly unfair trials shows a complete disregard for human rights. His trials were undermined even before he set foot in the courtroom. The fact that he was held for months incommunicado without judicial oversight and that he didn’t have a lawyer to represent him during the investigations makes these trials nothing but a charade based on null and void procedures,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“Egypt’s authorities should disregard all the evidence that was obtained from Mohamed Morsi or any other detainee during the period in which they were subjected to enforced disappearance, and must either release him immediately or retry him in a civilian court with full fair-trial guarantees. Any further criminal proceedings must be in line with Egyptian law and international standards.

The authorities should also drop the charges of escaping from prison in January 2011, as at the time Morsi was held in administrative detention, under emergency powers and without a judicial detention order.”

“The death penalty has become the favourite tool for the Egyptian authorities to purge the political opposition. Most of those sentenced to death by courts since July 2013 have been Morsi supporters. The deal seems to be: Support Morsi and get sentenced to death or to years behind bars. Instead, Egypt must ensure the independence and impartiality of the justice system and bring to justice all those responsible for gross human rights violations.”

The court recommended a death sentence against Mohamed Morsi and 105 others, including senior Muslim Brotherhood members, found guilty of orchestrating mass prison-breaks during the “25 January Revolution”, aided by Hamas and Hizbullah.

Morsi had also faced trial on separate charges of spying for foreign states and organizations, leaking classified intelligence reports to groups including Hamas, Hizbullah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and taking part in terrorism-related activities. The court recommended death sentences for 16 in the case, including one woman, but not Mohamed Morsi.

The court sent the casefile to the Grand Mufti for his advice, a mandatory procedure under Egyptian law before a criminal court can hand down the death sentence. If Mohamed Morsi and the other defendants were sentenced to death when the court hands down its final verdict on 2 June 2015, they will be able to appeal their death sentences before Egypt’s highest court, the Court of Cassation.

Background Information
Mohamed Morsi was ousted from power by a military-backed government on 3 July 2013 and held in incommunicado detention along with several of his close aides for months in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance.

The ousted president is already serving a 20-year prison sentence, handed down in April 2015 following an unfair trial, on charges of involvement in deadly clashes around the Presidential Palace in December 2012.

Mohamed Morsi faces a separate trial on charges of leaking confidential information to Qatar. He is also facing another trial with 24 others for insulting the judiciary. The first hearing is scheduled for 23 May 2015.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime, the guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the offender or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.