529 Sentenced to Death in My Country

Egypt’s criminal court in El-Minya recommends death penalty sentences for Muslim Brotherhood operatives. The writer ponders the international response to this decision.

Ashraf Ramelah

OpEds Ashraf Ramelah
Ashraf Ramelah

Evidence documents presented to court showed defendants responsible for crimes of upheaval and chaos against the state.
Egypt’s criminal court in El-Minya recommends death penalty sentences for Muslim Brotherhood operatives

On Monday March 24, Egypt’s criminal court sentenced 529 Muslim Brotherhood members to death. In less than 48 hours, Judge Saeed Yosef of the court of El-Minya, south of Cairo, weighed the evidence in accusation documents presented to the court and recommended the death penalty for 529 individuals of the 1229 defendants (all Muslim Brotherhood (MB) members involved in Muhammed Morsi’s rise to power and administration).

Only the 147 defendants in custody appeared in court. Many of the sentenced (398 persons) are in hiding and therefore absent from court. Seventeen names were found innocent.  

According to Egyptian law, procedure calls for the court’s recommendation to depend on final approval by the Grand Mufti of Cairo, an identity separate from Egypt’s government and the highest religious Islamic position to issue legal edits (fatwas) by interpreting the Quran who must seal any death sentence by the civil courts with a fatwa. Once the Grand Mufti approves or denies the court’s verdict, a final verdict will be issued by Judge Yosef in another court hearing set for April 28.

The remaining 683 defendants are scheduled for trial on April 28 as well. Among those to appear for the next trial date are such notables as MB spiritual leader, Mohammed Badee, and former president of the Egyptian parliament, Mohammed El Katatani.

Evidence documents presented to court showed defendants responsible for crimes of upheaval and chaos against the state

The defendants were arrested for violence and riots in the streets of El Minya upon Muhammed Morsi’s removal last July. These riots were related to the Al-Adawia and Al-Nahda sit-ins that the world saw in falsified pictures by Al-Jazeera presenting a victimized MB and touting peaceful protesters. Some of the charges include assault by rocks, Molotov cocktails and gunfire on the Matay police station, the death of a colonel deputy police sheriff, the attempt to murder a second police officer, setting fire to the police station and police vehicles after seizing police weapons, and invading the public health center to kidnap and mutilate the Colonel’s body. 

Courts around the country are busy with trials concerning similar incidents.

In addition to the convictions of the El Minya trial, Egyptian courts in many other locales are busy holding MB members on trial for terror activities:

In Cairo, Judge Mustafa Al Feeky who heads the court inside the Cairo Police Academy continued a case against 104 members of the MB charged with Al Zaher (area in Cairo) clashes resulting in the killing and injury of citizens, damaging public and private buildings and acts of intimidation against citizens opposed to Islamist control of their streets.  

The Misdemeanor Court of  Alexandria in Al Dekhela sentenced four MB members to five years in jail with forced labor for February 2014 crimes involving violence during one or more unauthorized gatherings or demonstrations in that neighborhood.    

In the city called the Tenth of Ramadan in El Sharkia province, nine MB members were arrested and held in prison for 15 days pending an investigation requested by the public prosecutor. A 14 year-old student under arrest was placed in custody in a juvenile home. Their charges include belonging to a terrorist group, participating in unauthorized marches, chanting slogans against the army and police and attacking people. At the time of their arrests, they possessed a large stash of illegal firearms.  

Reaction to Egypt’s guilty verdicts

A statement issued by the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan condemns the El Minya court verdict. The statement considers the verdict a political one and the MB victims of military repression since the 529 persons sentenced are fighters for Allah and “democracy.”

Meanwhile in various Egyptian universities supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood are protesting the verdicts.

Catherine Ashton, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the European Union, normally silent on human rights violations in Egypt, voiced concern over the death sentences as incommensurate with international human rights standards. Apparently seeing it as too harsh a sentence for terrorists working for decades to overturn the state and undermining a wave of secularism with criminal activities, she noted that Washington viewed the evidence and the testimony with skepticism as to fairness.


The United States is shocked by the number of sentenced people, spokeswoman for State department Marie Harff “is sure to raise this issue with Egyptian government”, adding “ and it is logical that the trial of the sheer number in two days , this is contrary to logic and international standards."  Harff, in her one-way pro-Muslim Brotherhood ignored what Egyptians suffered from brutal Islamists over the last three years and how US never condemned killing of innocents or the destruction of churches, businesses and government buildings.   

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry in a statement commenting on the verdict, said it was "issued by an independent court, and after careful consideration of the issue" and that "the defendants can appeal the ruling to the Court of Cassation."

Is this a travesty or will it be known as the day of terror-control and a turning point for justice and law and order?