An anti-death penalty group called on the National Council for Human Rights to “urgently intervene” and “to bear the political and moral responsibility in preventing the death of possibly innocent citizens”, in specific reference to the “Arab Sharkas” case on Wednesday.
A military court rejected the appeal on the death sentences of seven people on the 24March in the case. Authorities can hence execute the defendants’ death sentences at any time.
The Supreme Military Court had initially sentenced in October 2014 seven defendants to death and two to life in prison. The sessions were held in the military area in the Hikestep military camp on the Ismailia-Cairo road.
One of the nine men was tried and convicted in absentia, while two others were sentenced to life; the six men remaining in custody “are at risk of execution any time”, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.
The execution process is secretive, while families are supposed to receive a warning a day in advance to receive the dead bodies, “but that is not always respected in practice,” according to Humans Rights Watch.
Sara Said, one of the defendants’ sister, said her brother and the remaining defendants had been “kidnapped” or forcibly disappeared. She added that last May her family and “six or seven more families went and filed a report to the Prosecutor General after they had seen their children’s names in an Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis membership list that the Ministry of Interior had released.”
All of the families had no idea where their children were, she said. The defendants “were all kidnapped and they all experienced the worst types of torture”.
According to HRW and local rights organisations, two of the defendants were already in detention when the alleged ‘Arab Sharkas’ events took place.
The Arab Sharkas case includes a group of nine men on military trial for allegedly taking part in attacks on security forces and killing two security personnel in a shoot out in March 2014.
Security forces had allegedly been carrying out a “terrorist cell” in a village in the Qaliubiya governorate, north of Cairo. The interior ministry later reported six militants dead, and eight arrested. The gunfight allegedly took place on 19 March, 2014.
Two of the defendants, Mohamed Bakry and Hani Amer, were arrested and detained in Azouly Prison three months before the alleged incident took place, rights groups and families confirmed to Daily News Egypt.
Sara Said added that her now 20-year-old brother was at a travel agency with his friend Islam in 6th of October City when they were both arrested on 16 March, 2014, three days before the alleged incident took place.
Said and her family only learned of her brother’s detention whereabouts later in May, when they got a phone call from the family that was visiting their son in the same prison Abdel Rahman was kept in. “He had lost a lot of weight and it was then that he told us how he got arrested,” she said.
“Usually, when you want to punish someone, it is because there is something you don’t want them to do again. Therefore, any punishment that is death is not a punishment it is political revenge,” Aida Seif Al-Dawla, co-founder of the El Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture, told Daily News Egypt. “This is not a punishment, this is murder.”
“This trial is unfair. It’s a military court and there is only one witness who is a national security officer. He’s the one who supposedly arrested them,” said Said. “In the trial session, the officer was saying what happened, and my mother got up and called him a liar. Of course, they told her to sit down, but after that he couldn’t remember what he was saying… because he was lying.”