An Egyptian court on Monday condemned 183 men to hang for the lynchings of 11 police officers by rioters in August 2013. The condemned were found guilty of an attack on a police station on the western outskirts of Cairo in apparent retaliation for the deadly dispersal by police of Muslim Brotherhood protest camps that day.
Video from the scene at the Kerdassa police station showed the dead and dying police officers sitting lined up against a wall as they were abused by a crowd. Only one of the station’s staff survived. Prosecutors said two civilians caught up in the attack were killed.
The lynchings took place hours after police broke up the Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in in eastern Cairo. More than 800 pro Brotherhood protesters were killed in the operation, according to a death toll compiled later by nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch.
Supporters of Egypt’s first elected president, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, had camped at the site for six weeks. The protest was mounted after then-army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi deposed Morsi in the wake of mass protests calling for the president to resign.
A wave of violence by Morsi supporters after the Rabaa killings saw police stations attacked and dozens of officers killed, according to official reports. Churches and other buildings belonging to Egypt’s Christian minority were burned.
Egypt’s military-backed government at the time cast its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood as a struggle against terrorism, citing the police station attacks.
The defendants condemned Monday to hang were among 188 whose preliminary death sentences were referred to Islamic legal authorities in December, as required by the Egyptian penal code. The court reduced the sentence of one juvenile to 10 years in prison, found two of the defendants not guilty and dropped the cases of two more who have died.
The United States is “deeply concerned” by the death sentences being upheld, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday in Washington.
“It simply seems impossible that a fair review of evidence and testimony could be achieved through mass trials,” she said. “We continue to call on the government of Egypt to ensure due process for the accused on the merits of individual cases for all Egyptians, and discontinue the practice of mass trial.”
A spokesperson for European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that the death sentences following the mass trial violated Egypt’s international human rights obligations. The EU opposes all capital punishment and called on Egyptian judicial authorities “to ensure that due legal process is followed in line with international standards.”
The defendants have the right to two appeals.
Earlier Monday, Egypt’s top appeals court granted a retrial to 12 men convicted of killing a police general in September 2013 when security forces re-entered Kerdassa for the first time after the lynchings.
More than 200 other death sentences have been passed on alleged Morsi loyalists – including Muslim Brotherhood supreme guide Mohammed Badie -over the 2013 unrest.
All remain subject to appeal, and retrials have already been ordered in a number of cases. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood was banned in late 2013 as a terrorist organization. Prominent secular democracy activists have been jailed in a crackdown on protests.
Activists said more than 40,000 people have been jailed or prosecuted since Morsi was deposed. Sunday saw the release of Australian journalist Peter Greste, who was put on a plane for Cyprus. Greste and his colleagues, Baher Mohammed and Mohammed Fahmy, journalists with broadcaster Al Jazeera International, were sentenced in June to seven years each in prison after their convictions on charges of faking news and collaborating with the Muslim Brotherhood.
The case, in which three Egyptian students were also jailed, was condemned by human rights and press freedom organizations. Amnesty International said no concrete evidence had been shown in court to prove the charges.
Greste’s family said Monday that he “won’t rest” until Fahmy and Mohammed are freed.
Egyptian authorities said they are in a process of restoring democracy, pointing to al-Sissi’s election as president last year and parliamentary elections planned for March. SAPA