“It is completely unacceptable that more than 500 people have been condemned to death in a summary trial. The court’s judgment is shocking, and the conduct of the trial gives cause for concern about the fundamental standards of the Egyptian legal system,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.
On Monday 24 March, 529 people were condemned to death by a court in Minya in Egypt. Several hundred of them were not present in court, and were convicted in absentia. The charges included the murder of a police officer and the storming of a police station. According to the defendants’ lawyers, they were not given the time or the opportunity to defend their clients properly, and only two court sessions were held before the verdict was handed down. The defendants now have an opportunity to appeal, and the verdict must have the approval of the Grand Mufti and the President before any executions can be carried out.
“I expect all the defendants to be given a fair opportunity to appeal the sentence, and that the question of guilt will be assessed individually for each defendant. Several other recent judgments in Egyptian courts have also made us question whether the right to due process is being upheld,” said the Foreign Minister.
Thousands of people have been held in prison after the military takeover in Egypt in July 2013. Democracy and human rights activists as well as Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been given long prison sentences. Journalists have also been arrested and imprisoned.
“Equality before the law and the rule of law are of fundamental importance for any society. I urge the Egyptian authorities to do their utmost to ensure respect for these values. Norway opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, and I ask the Egyptian authorities to refrain from making any use of it,” said Mr Brende.
“The period up to the presidential and parliamentary elections is a decisive one for Egypt. The country must demonstrate that it respects international principles of democracy, human rights and rule of law. Legal processes must contribute to national reconciliation, not widen the divides,” said the Foreign Minister.