An Egyptian court has sentenced six young men to death as part of a case that has stirred significant controversy. Ibrahim Azab, Khalid Askar, Ahmed Al Waleed, Mahmoud Wahba, Bassem Mohsen, and Abdul Rahman Atteyah were convicted of the murder of a police officer in 2014 but their families and supporters say the charges are false. They claim that the men, students and graduates of science, pharmacology, medicine, and engineering, were taken from the streets three years ago, have not had access to legal council, and that the convictions depend on confessions obtained under torture. They even say the young men were told their mothers and sisters would be tortured if they did not cooperate.
In the following video, a woman identified as one of the young men’s mothers recounts her son’s description of what occurred after he was taken.
“They electrocuted me in every part of my body.”
“They said we will bring your mother and undress here and do so and so to her”.
Exclusive video for parents of the young people sentenced to death,They reveal the threats to their children https://t.co/3125C80YAT
— Breakcuffs_eng (@BreakcuffsEng) June 13, 2017
No date has been set for the executions. Supporters say they live in fear, while news of the executions could arrive “anytime”. More than 14,000 people have signed a petition calling for their release.
Disappearances and the use of torture are widespread under the regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, lending credence to the families’ claims of abuse and unfair process. In the context of widespread crackdowns and criminalization of protests, the executions can easily be seen as a deliberate demonstration of the regime’s power of life and death over its subjects.
This case has reminded observers of a case from 2014 where a court in Egypt sentenced over 500 people to death for the murder of a single police officer, a 2015 case where Egyptian courts sentenced a dead man to life in prison, and a 2016 case where a three-year-old was almost sentenced to life in prison for three murders.
Egypt has historically had a terrible human rights record. However, the number and severity of the abuses has intensified during the current era, which began in 2013 when then Defense Minister Field Marshall Sisi led a military coup against the only democratically elected president in Egypt’s history, Mohamed Morsi. Morsi had led the Muslim Brotherhood associated Freedom and Justice party to multiple electoral wins following the collapse of the Mubarak regime in 2011.
During this period, the Egyptian military, which is trained and supplied as well as partially funded by the United States, has committed the worst massacres of its civilians in its history. US support for the Egyptian military is bi-partisan, with the coup occurring during Obama’s second term. But President Trump has embraced Sisi as a key “ally” against “terror”, with even greater enthusiasm. The Egyptian leader was reportedly the first foreign head of state to congratulate Trump on his electoral win.
Where the Obama administration would temper its support with mild criticism and temporary halts to arms flows, the Trump administration has embraced the Egyptian strongman without even the slightest reservations.