Amnesty calls for retrial of 8 men sentenced to death in military court

Monday 03-10-2016 05:23 PM

Some of the defendants sentenced on Sunday by an Egyptian military court. Photo on No Military Trials for Civilians official page

CAIRO, Oct 3 (Aswat Masriya) – Amnesty International called on Monday for the retrial of eight civilians who were sentenced to death by a military court before a civilian court.

The eight defendants were convicted of belonging to a banned group and possessing firearms and explosives. Eighteen others were handed prison terms, while two were acquitted in the same case.

Six of the defendants were tried in absentia, including two of those sentenced to death. 

Amnesty called on Egyptian authorities to retry all those convicted in the case before a civilian court. It also for excluding all confessions and evidence obtained through “torture” and ill-treatment” in the retrial. 

“Sentencing to death men who were tortured into ‘confessions’ is an egregious injustice, even by the degraded standards of Egypt’s justice system,” said Magdalena Mughrabi-Talhami, Amnesty International’s Regional Deputy Programme Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“They must receive a fair trial before an ordinary civilian court that meets international standards and excludes torture-tainted evidence, without the recourse to the death penalty,” added Mughrabi-Talhami.

Egypt’s defence minister has ratified the death sentences on Aug. 21, while the defendants were notified by the decision during the period between Sept. 15 and 21. 

The verdict is subject to appeal before a Supreme Military Court for those who were present in court within 60 days of the notification date. 

The defendants, arrested between May 28 and June 7, 2015, were subjected to enforced disappearances and their whereabouts were unknown for over six weeks, according to Amnesty.

Based on their lawyers' and their families' statements, Amnesty reported that the men had wounds that included "burns and bruises on their bodies as well as injuries to their hands" indicating signs of torture.

Amnesty called for an "effective, independent, and impartial investigation into the allegations of enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment."

Most families later discovered their relatives were in military custody when they saw a televised video by the Defence Ministry on July 10 announcing the arrests of the "most dangerous terrorist cell" in Egypt, according to the report.

The video footage featured the detainees "confessing" to belonging to a banned group and attacking military institutions.

The No to Military Trials for Civilians initiative launched in September a social media campaign that’s due to continue until end of October in support of the defendants. Activists shared their posters carrying “No to Military Trials for Civilians,” alongside photographs and stories of the defendants. 

According to a report issued in April by Human Rights Watch, 7420 civilians have faced military trials since October 2014, when President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi decreed a law that expanded the reach of the military justice system by placing all public property under its jurisdiction.

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