Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Egyptian courts: in one week 183 death sentences and 229 times life imprisonment

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie (2nd right) and other defendants gesture during their trial in Cairo on 7 June 2014 Inmates in an Egyptian courtroom. (Photo: Getty)
Br /> The Cairo Criminal Court sentenced well-known Egyptian activist Ahmed Douma and another 229 defendants to life-in-prison on Wednesday and fined them all LE17 million (US$2.2 million) for involvement in the December 2011 cabinet clashes case.
A life-in-prison verdict carries a sentence of 25 years in jail according to the Egyptian penal code. Some 39 other minors were sentenced to ten years in prison in the same case. All defendants can appeal the verdicts.
Douma, along with 269 others,  was accused of possessing bladed weapons and Molotov cocktails, assaulting personnel from the armed forces and the police, torching the Scientific Complex in downtown Cairo and damaging other governmental buildings, including that of the cabinet and the parliament. That woudl have happened on 16 December 2011, when soldiers forcibly dispersed a three-week sit-in against military rule at the cabinet building. At least 18 were killed and hundreds injured in the violence which spanned over five days.

Douma, who is already serving time in prison, sarcastically applauded when he heard the verdict. The judge then threatened him with an additional three-year prison sentence for court contempt. In an earlier session of the same court in December, Douma was sentenced to three years in jail and a fine of LE10,000 for contempt of court after an argument ensued between himself and judge Nagy Shehata, head of the Cairo Criminal Court handling the case. The Judge became apparently incensed by a question by Douma on whether he maintained a Facebook account. Social media users have recently charged that Shehata once maintained a Facebook account in which he openly aired political views denouncing activists and figures from the 2011 uprising as a sign of impartiality against Douma and other defendants.
In Wednesday’s session, Douma defended himself, saying he had filed legal complaints charging that groups of individuals wearing military and police uniforms and stationed on top of buildings around the cabinet at the time of the clashes were responsible for the violence, but they were never questioned. Douma also denied setting fire to the Scientific Complex south of the cabinet headquarters.
Douma presented his own defence due to the defence team boycotting the trial sessions since December. That happened  after the court referred one of the defence lawyers, prominent leftist Khaled Ali, to the prosecution for "fomenting chaos in the courtroom."
It is the second severe verdict in a week. Another court in Egypt on Monday upheld death sentences on 183 Muslim Brotherhood supporters over a 2013 attack on a police station near Cairo. The men were convicted over the deaths of at least 11 officers in Kerdasa. The attack took place after Egyptian military forces cracked down on Islamist supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi that July. Hundreds of death sentences have been passed on Mr Morsi's supporters but none has been carried out. Human rights group Amnesty International says the death sentences follow grossly unfair trials and highlight Egypt's disregard for national and international law.

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