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Egypt hits back at UN over criticism of executions

Egyptian courts have issued hundreds of death sentences under President Sisi [Getty Images]

Date of publication: 25 February, 2019

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Cairo has said it 'rejects any infringement upon the Egyptian judiciary' after the UN expressed concern that trials leading to executions in the country may have been unfair.
Egypt's foreign ministry on Sunday condemned the UN on Monday following criticism of trials that led to the execution of nine people last week, Reuters reported.

Egypt hanged nine men in the early hours of last Wednesday, despite urgent appeals and protests over the way in which they were convicted of assassinating a public prosecutor in 2015.

The Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed concern on Friday that trials leading to the execution of 15 people in Egypt over the past month may have been unfair. There have been allegations that the confessions were extracted under torture.

"Egypt rejects any reference to allegations that confessions were extracted," the ministry said in a statement, adding that it "rejects any infringement upon the Egyptian judiciary".

The statement coincides with the kick off of the first Arab-Eropean summit, hosted by Egypt in Sharm al-Sheikh. 

"The Sisi regime synchronises its statements with major international events in order to ease external pressure and avoid international embarrassment," diplomatic sources told The New Arab. 

In a video of the trial, one of the men, Mahmoud al-Ahmadi, appealed to the judge, saying "Sir, we've been given enough electric shocks to power Egypt for the next 20 years".

"Give me an electric probe and I'll make anyone confess to assassinating President Anwar Sadat".

The nine men were among 28 convicted and sentenced to death for the killing of Public Prosecutor Hisham Barakat in a car bomb explosion in 2015.

Amnesty International has condemned the execution, calling it "unfair" and "a testament to the magnitude of injustice in the country".

"Those responsible for the attack that killed Egypt's former public prosecutor deserve to be punished but executing men who were convicted in trials marred by torture allegations is not justice," Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International's North Africa Campaigns Director said. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sharply criticised his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi over the executions, saying he refused to talk to "someone like him".

"They killed nine young people recently. This is not something we can accept," Erdogan said Saturday.

At least six men were executed earlier this month in Egypt after unfair trials, bringing the total number of death sentences implemented in the past three weeks to 15. 

"These executions are a stark demonstration of the government's increasing use of the death penalty," Bounaim said.

"The international community must not stay silent over this surge in executions. Egypt's allies must take a clear stand by publicly condemning the authoritie' use of the death penalty, the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment".

Among the 28 men convicted, 13 have been convicted in absentia. One of these men, Mohammed Abdel Hafiz, who hoped to seek refuge in Turkey, was forcibly returned to Egypt from Turkey in January. 

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