Secretary Kerry: Egyptian court's issuance of 529 death sentences at mass trial "simply defies logic"

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that the Egyptian government's sentencing of 529 Egyptian citizens to death after a two-day trial "simply defies logic." Kerry urged the Egyptian authorities to pursue due process. In Washington, D.C., two activist groups rallied outside the Egyptian embassy to demand the repeal of the verdicts.
By JC Finley  |  Updated March 28, 2014 at 5:18 PM
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged the Egyptian government Wednesday "to remedy the situation" after 529 Muslim Brotherhood members were sentenced to death "after a quick mass trial."

The Egyptian government's sentencing of 529 Egyptian citizens to death over a two-day mass trial "simply defies logic," said Kerry.

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.

Noting the "many avenues of legitimate review for this judgment," he called on Egyptian authorities to pursue due process not only for the 529 citizens but also for the 700 other people who are currently facing a similar mass trial.

"The need for due process assumed greater urgency with the start of a new trial for nearly 700 more people in the same courtroom where the earlier judgment was rendered after a two-day summary proceeding in which the defendants were tried as a group rather than on the merits of individual cases. Many of those defendants were not even in the courtroom. It is impossible to believe that such a proceeding satisfied even the most basic standards of justice.

"The interim government must understand the negative message that this decision, if upheld, would send to the world about Egypt's commitment to international law and inclusivity."

On Thursday in Washington, D.C., CODEPINK and Egyptian Americans for Democracy and Human Rights rallied outside the Egyptian embassy to demand the Egyptian government repeal the mass death sentences.

CODEPINK encouraged its supporters to submit the following petition to Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Dear Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi,

I am appalled by the court’s verdict condemning 529 people to death for allegedly killing a police officer at a protest for ousted President Mohamed Morsi. This sentence must be overturned. The trial was clearly a sham and your government, which has jailed over 16,000 people since coming to power, is clearly targeting people based on political affiliation.

I urge you to pressure the court to reverse the sentence and support human rights. Do not allow these 529 people to be put to death.

[State Department]

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