The United Nations expressed alarm Tuesday that the Egyptian government had issued an "astounding number" of death sentences to 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters "after a cursory mass trial."
"The mass imposition of the death penalty after a trial that was rife with procedural irregularities is in breach of international human rights law," declared UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Rupert Colville.
"A death sentence may only be imposed after proceedings that meet the highest level of respect for fair trial and due process standards. A mass trial of 529 people conducted over just two days cannot possibly have met even the most basic requirements for a fair trial. In accordance with international human rights jurisprudence, 'the imposition of a death sentence upon conclusion of a trial in which the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights have not been respected constitutes a violation of article 6 of the Covenant.'"
The sentenced were charged with a variety of crimes committed during anti-government protests in August 2013, including the murder of a police officer, attempted murder of two others, and attacking a police station. Violence erupted in Cairo last August after police attempted to disperse two makeshift protest camps demanding the reinstatement of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.
Defense attorneys argued they had insufficient access to defendants and were not able to present evidence. 398 of the 529 of the charged were tried in absentia. Some were not asked by the judge whether they had defense representation.