HRW slams ‘draconian sentences’ in Egypt
New York-based Human Rights Watch has issued a statement criticizing the trial of 51 alleged supporters of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued a statement criticizing the trial of 51 alleged supporters of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB), claiming that the government has presented no evidence of criminal behavior besides the testimony of one police officer.
On April 11, 2015, an Egyptian judge convicted and sentenced 37 people to life in prison and confirmed the death penalties of 14 others for their alleged roles in organizing opposition to the military’s removal (which was backed by mass protests opposing the Muslim Brotherhood rule) of former MB-backed President Mohammad Morsi in July 2013.
The charges ranged from publishing false news to conspiring to overthrow the interim government installed by the military following the removal of Mursi. But a review of the case file by Human Rights Watch shows that the state presented little evidence that the defendants did anything but spread news about a mass sit-in opposing the coup or organize and publicize peaceful opposition to Mursi’s removal.
The defendants included 10 journalists and seven people who worked as Brotherhood spokesmen or for Brotherhood-owned news outlets, as well as Mohamed Soltan, a 27-year-old Egyptian-American who volunteered to arrange news coverage of the sit-in, and was sentenced to life in prison. Walid Abd al-Raouf Shalabi, a writer at the Brotherhood’s official Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) newspaper, was sentenced to death.
On April 11, the White House issued a statement saying that the United States condemned the sentence against Soltan and calling for his immediate release.
In June 2014, Egypt’s grand mufti, who is legally required to give his opinion on death sentences in his role as the country’s highest Islamic legal official, rejected 14 death sentences handed down against the Supreme Guide of the MB, Mohammad Badie and other Brotherhood members in a separate case. One of the assisting judges on the panel overseeing the case said that the mufti had found that “the investigations and evidence were not enough to carry out the death sentence,” Reuters reported.
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