Egyptian police officers stand guard on June 29, 2015, at the site of a bombing in Cairo that killed Egypt’s top prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, who oversaw cases against thousands of Islamists. (Eman Helal/AP)
February 20 at 3:31 PM
CAIRO — Egypt on Wednesday executed nine men convicted in the 2015 killing of the nation’s chief prosecutor, despite allegations by human rights activists that torture and false confessions were used in the trials.
Executions have surged in Egypt since the beginning of the year, fueling more criticism of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi’s authoritarian policies .
Egypt says the men were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist religious, political and social movement. They were found guilty in the killing of Hisham Barakat, the most senior official assassinated in the country in more than two decades. The Brotherhood denied any role in the killing, as did the allied militant Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The nine were among a group of 28 convicted in the case in 2017. Six were sentenced to life in prison. Thirteen were convicted in absentia, including one whom Turkey deported to Egypt in January, human rights activists said. The 13 also face potential death sentences.
“By carrying out the executions of these nine men today Egypt has demonstrated an absolute disregard for the right to life,” Najia Bounaim, North Africa campaigns director for the watchdog group Amnesty International, said in a statement Wednesday.
“Those responsible for the attack that killed Egypt’s former public prosecutor deserve to be punished but executing men who were convicted in trials marred by torture allegations is not justice but a testament to the magnitude of injustice in the country.”
The latest executions brought the total number to 15 this month. Three men were convicted of killing a police officer in 2013 and three in the murder of a judge’s son in 2014, human rights activists said.
All the cases were tainted by claims of torture, Amnesty International said. Several of the nine men executed Wednesday were forcibly removed from their homes and tortured to extract confessions, the group alleged.
Sissi led a military coup that ousted elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, a Brotherhood stalwart, in 2013, two years after the Arab Spring revolt in the country removed longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Sissi, after his election in 2014, clamped down on Islamists and other critics, jailing tens of thousands. The government banned the Muslim Brotherhood and declared it a terrorist group.
Hundreds of Brotherhood members have received death sentences. Although only a small percentage of the sentences have been carried out, the number of executions has steadily risen since 2015, human rights activists and defense lawyers said.
“The international community must not stay silent over this surge in executions,”Bounaim said. “Egypt’s allies must take a clear stand by publicly condemning the authorities’ use of the death penalty, the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”
Copyright © The Washington Post February 2019