Death Sentences For 529 People – Has The Egyptian Judiciary Gone Bonkers?

Fatimah Mazhar
Sunday was a good day for Egypt when prominent blogger and political activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah was freed from custody after spending almost 115 days in prison.

Egypt Goes Bonkers

Sunday was a good day for Egypt when prominent blogger and political activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah was freed from custody after spending almost 115 days in prison.

He was violently arrested in November last year for allegedly breaking an anti-protest law and inciting violence against the military takeover that overthrew former president Mohamed Morsi.

However, just a day after Abdel-Fattah’s rare example of judicial clemency, Egypt carried out what is being billed as “the biggest mass death sentence” handed out in the country’s modern history.

529 supporters of the banned Islamist organization Muslim Brotherhood were sentenced to death for murder and other offences on Monday.

Recommended: Egypt: Revolution, What Revolution?

The unrest in Egypt intensified last year when millions flooded the streets in June, only a year after Morsi’s rule, demanding the resignation of the nation’s first democratically-elected president of the country.

The event marked the largest demonstrations since 2011 and probably the biggest protests in the country’s history.

Morsi was eventually overthrown on July 3, 2013, only to be replaced by a military coup headed by Sisi and opposition leader Mohamed El Baradei.

A brutal crackdown by the army was later initiated against the deposed leader’s organization, the notorious Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which was declared a terrorist group in December.

Subsequently, security forces killed hundreds of Morsi’s supporters while dispersing their protest camps, and arrested thousands more.

Egypt Goes Bonkers

Riot police stand near an armoured personnel carrier after firing rubber bullets and tear gas inside al-Azhar University during clashes with the university's students, who are supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi – Reuters

Although the 529 people sentenced to death this week have been charged with carrying out attacks during last year’s clashes including the murder of a police officer, human rights advocates are calling the ruling "a disaster" and "a scandal" for Egypt.

"Even if they are tried in absentia, you do not sentence 529 defendants to death in three days," lawyer Gamal Eid, director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information told Arham Online.

"A second year student in the faculty of law would never issue this verdict. There are a lot of flaws in this verdict. I think maybe an appeal could be successful but nothing is predictable," said Mohamed Zaree, program manager, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies while speaking to Reuters.

Read More: Top 5 Factors Behind Anti - Mohamed Morsi “Mass” Protests In Egypt

The decision sounds even more outrageous when compared to the trial of the ousted Egyptian military dictator Hosni Mubarak, who faces charges related to the killing of protesters in the 2011 revolution, and has been successfully avoiding any kind of prosecution for almost three years.

This verdict is a wakeup call for all those people who might’ve thought after Alaa Abdel-Fattah’s release that things were going to change in Egypt.

Apparently, it’s all going to get much worse.