Egyptian man executed amid questions over murder conviction

An Egyptian man, who may have been wrongfully convicted of murder, was hanged in Cairo on Wednesday morning, Amnesty International has learned. Atef Rohyum Abd El Al Rohyum was executed in Isti’naf prison. His family were not informed of his execution until they were asked to collect the body.His co-accused, Jihan Mohammed Ali, a woman convicted in the same case, was executed in the city of Giza on the same day. The two were accused of the murder of Jihan Mohammed Ali’s husband in January 2004.Amnesty International had called for the death sentence to be commuted, and for Atef Rohyum Abd El Al Rohyum to be retried, after learning that he had been transferred to Isti’naf prison, where executions take place.Atef Rohyum Abd El Al Rohyum was hanged despite evidence suggesting he was not guilty. His family was not made aware that his appeal, filed with the Public Prosecutor in May 2009, had failed, despite a formal request made on Tuesday for information on its status.Jihan Mohammed Ali had stated she acted alone in killing her husband and that Atef had done no more than help her move the body. He requested a retrial based on this new evidence, but there has been no response from the authorities. Jihan Mohammed Ali also claimed that she had acted in self defence as her husband was beating her. She had been married to her husband while still at school.At an earlier stage, following his arrest, Atef Rohyum Abd El Al Rohyum is reported to have been interrogated without the presence of a lawyer and tortured and otherwise ill-treated. Those who say they witnessed him being tortured and harshly treated were not called to give evidence at his trial. Last year witnessed a significant rise in death sentences handed down by Egyptian courts, with at least 269 death sentences imposed. According to official statements, more than 20 executions took place in Egypt in 2008 and some 26 death sentences were declared final by the courts, adding to those on death row. The authorities never disclose how many people are awaiting execution.Executions in Egypt are not announced until after they have been carried out and condemned prisoners are not told the date and time of their execution.In practice, the families of condemned prisoners are not made aware of the execution until they are called to collect the body – despite claims by the Egyptian authorities that relatives are permitted to visit the condemned person on the day appointed for execution.