CAIRO: A wave of mass sentences in Egypt, including hundreds sentenced to death this week after a rushed mass trial, has sparked charges that military-installed authorities are using the judiciary as a blunt tool of repression.
The sentences handed out Monday to nearly 700 supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi — after only one hearing — fed international outrage after a similar verdict last month, although most of the previous batch of sentences were commuted to life imprisonment.
On a near-daily basis, new trials open before being swiftly adjourned, with lawyers and human rights activists baffled by the sentencing of dozens or even hundreds of defendants based on evidence that is rarely made public.
Among those sentenced to death on Monday in the southern town of Minya were people who were dead or out of the country on the day of the violent riots they were accused of taking part in.
“If anybody had any doubts that Egypt was eradicating political opposition, those doubts should be put to rest,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch’s Middle East director, told AFP. “This is sham justice.”
Since the army ousted Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, in July amid a wave of protests against him, a security crackdown targeting his supporters has left more than 1,400 killed and 15,000 jailed.
Hundreds of Morsi’s supporters have been sentenced to death or life imprisonment, and dozens more have gotten hefty jail terms. In one case, 14 young women were given 11 years in jail for taking part in a pro-Morsi protest. The sentence was later reduced on appeal to a one-year suspended sentence, however, and seven girls, initially sentenced to juvenile detention, were ordered freed.
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