Egypt: Two Defendants at Imminent Risk of Execution after Military Trial and Torture

A military court of appeal yesterday upheld the death sentences of two men, Ahmed Amin Ghazali and Abdul Basir Abdul Rauf, following a grossly unfair trial based on confessions extracted under torture during their enforced disappearance, Amnesty International said today. The two men are at imminent risk of execution unless President Abdelfatah al-Sisi decides within the next 14 days  

“The past two years have seen a spike in the number of executions in Egypt and particularly after notorious military trials. There is now a huge risk that these two men will be executed in the next weeks and President al-Sisi should order a halt to these executions,” said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.

“Over the past five years under the administration of President al-Sisi, Egyptian courts have handed out 1,400 death sentences after unfair trials often based on “confessions” obtained under torture and flawed police investigations. These cases are another example of the lengths to which the authorities disregard the Egyptian people’s basic human rights.”  

Military Court of Cassations in Cairo ruled on the appeal, after six men, Ahmed Amin Ghazali Amin, Abdul Basir Abdul Rauf, Mohamed Fawzi Abd al-Gawad Mahmoud, Reda Motamad Fahmy Abd al-Monem, Ahmed Mustafa Ahmed Mohamed and Mahmoud al-Sharif Mahmoud, had appealed their death sentences by a lower court. On 26 March, the court accepted the appeals of four of the men Mohamed Fawzi Abd al-Gawad Mahmoud, Reda Motamad Fahmy Abd al-Monem, Ahmed Mustafa Ahmed Mohamed, and Mahmoud al-Sharif Mahmoud, who will face a retrial before another military court but rejected that of Ghazali and Abdul Rauf.

Egyptian security forces arrested the six men between 28 May and 7 June 2015 and subjected them to enforced disappearance, for periods of over six weeks. Their families have informed Amnesty International that during the period of enforced disappearance they inquired with police stations, prisons, and prosecutors’ offices for further information about the whereabouts of the men. However the authorities either denied that the men were in custody or ignored the families’ requests. It was only after a televised video by the Defence Ministry on 10 July 2015, announcing the arrests of “the most dangerous terrorist cell in Egypt” that the families were informed of what had happened to the men. The video included footage of the defendants “confessing” to belonging to banned groups and to attacking military institutions.

A military court had convicted the six defendants on 29 May 2016, along with 20 others, on charges of “belonging to a banned group,” “possession of firearms and explosives” and “obtaining classified military information without authorization”. Of the 26 people charged, two were acquitted, eight were sentenced to death, two of them in absentia, and 18 received prison terms ranging between 15 and 25 years.

“We call on the Egyptian authorities to quash these defendants’ death sentences and to retry them in a civilian court in proceedings which comply with international fair trial standards, including ensuring them access to a lawyer of their choice, and protecting them from torture and other ill treatment.” Said Najia Bounaim.

Background

In 2017 alone, military courts in Egypt tried at least 384 civilians . Military trials of civilians in Egypt are inherently unfair as all officials in military courts, including judges and prosecutors, are serving members of the military.  These officials report to the Minister of Defence and do not have the necessary training on rule of law or fair trial standards.

Amnesty International has found that in some cases, those n relation to crimes such as terrorism, incitement of violence and “political violence” could not have committed the offence they were accused of as they were in police custody when the crimes they were accused of were committed.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.