Egyptians react to mass death sentence
Five months ago, 30-year-old Abu Bakr Ismail, a pharmacist and father of two, was arrested by security forces at his workplace and carted off to jail. The move stunned his family, who say Ismail was an observant traditional Muslim.
“My brother is an innocent man,” 29-year-old Amr Ismail said. “He was arrested because he was bearded and memorised the Quran.”
Abu Bakr Ismail was one of 683 people sentenced to death in a Minya courthouse on Monday for charges of inciting violence in an August 14, 2013 riot at the Edwa police station in Minya, 245km south of Cairo.
All of the accused, including incarcerated Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, are accused of being members or supporters of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and former President Mohamed Morsi.
The attack at the police station came after security forces violently dispersed proMorsi protest camps in Cairo after Morsi’s ouster in July of 2013.
Before the sentences can be carried out, Egyptian law requires the presiding judge to confirm the sentences after referral to Al-Azhar Grand Mufti Shawki Allam, who can reject or accept the ruling. Many believe this is simply a formality.
Late Monday evening, Egyptian Prosecutor General Hesham Barakat issued notice to appeal the sentence, but this has not comforted family members of the accused.
Nahed Mohamed, the wife of Ezzat Mohamed, 44, said she had no idea why her husband was arrested while praying in a Minya mosque. Since Monday’s sentence came down, she and their four children have been praying for his release.
Of the 683 men sentenced on Monday, several dozen were in custody, while those still at large have been offered a retrial if they turn themselves in.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, swiftly issued a statement criticising the ruling. The entire affair, the statement said, “contradicts all of the world’s legal norms.”
Foreign governments and human-rights groups have also condemned the sentences.
“It is impossible to believe that such proceedings could meet even the most basic standards of justice,” US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said, while Amnesty International deemed the trials “deeply flawed and grossly unfair.”
Amr Ismail said each of the convicted men, including his brother, had more than 100 pages of allegations brought against them, but they were not allowed to see any of the evidence.
In Cairo, limited clashes and protests broke out over news of the sentences. Arrests and injuries were reported at the Al-Azhar University campus after police and security personnel confronted demonstrators there, but the rest of the city remained relatively calm
Egyptians screamed and wept upon hearing that 683 people were sentenced to death
[ Transterra/Al Jazeera].