529 Denied Right to Meaningful Defense, Face Capital Punishment
(New York) – The criminal court in Minya, Egyptsentenced 529 people to death, possibly the largest mass death sentence in recent years anywhere, in a trial lacking basic due process protections.
The March 22, 2014, trial, in which the vast majority of defendants were tried in absentia, took place in under an hour. The prosecution did not put forward evidence implicating any individual defendant, even though it had compiled significant evidence during its investigations, and the court prevented defense lawyers from presenting their case or calling witnesses, three of the defense lawyers told Human Rights Watch. A second summary session was held two days later solely to announce the verdict.
“It’s shocking even amid Egypt’s deep political repression that a court has sentenced 529 people to death without giving them any meaningful opportunity to defend themselves,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The Minya court failed to carry out its most fundamental duty to assess the individual guilt of each defendant, violating the most basic fair trial right. These death sentences should be immediately quashed.”