Egyptian trials a travesty, says Amnesty

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Egyptian trials a travesty, says Amnesty

Mass trials of civilians in military courts in

Egypt are grossly unfair, and many of those being tried

have reportedly been tortured to extract confessions,

said Amnesty International on September 23.

Twenty-eight death sentences have been passed by military

courts since December 1992, and 14 executions have now

taken place. Two Amnesty International delegates returned

from Egypt on September 10 after observing sessions of

the trials of two groups of people before military

courts, which follow an upsurge in political violence in

Egypt. The scores of civilian defendants were charged en

masse with membership of a banned Islamic organisation

"Talai' al-Fatah".

The defendants were reportedly tortured by state security

officers while held secretly and illegally for weeks or

months at state security buildings in Cairo. They are

said to have been blindfolded day and night and suspended

in painful positions or given electric shocks until they

agreed to make statements. Amnesty International has

detailed descriptions of the torture methods, and

forensic medical reports have confirmed that scars on

many defendants are consistent with the methods of

torture they describe.

Defence lawyers have not been given sufficient time to

prepare their clients' defence. In one case involving 55

defendants, the prosecutors had over six months from the

to prepare 3000 to 4000 pages of case files, but the

defence lawyers were not able even to look at the files

until the court's first session on August 15; they had to

prepare the defence case in time for the next session on

August 25.

In another case, the defence lawyers withdrew on

September 7 following the military judge's refusal to

allow cross-examination at a certain point. Rather than

adjourning the case and allowing the Bar Association to

arrange for the appointment of new lawyers, the military

judge immediately appointed former military lawyers to be

the defence lawyers, against the wishes of the

defendants. Two of these defendants were subsequently

sentenced to death on September 15.

There is no right to appeal against the decision of these

military courts to a higher court, which violates a

strict requirement of international law.

Amnesty International called on President Mubarak to

cease issuing special decrees referring civilians to

military courts (a practice started in October 1992), and

for all civilian prisoners tried by military courts to

receive new trials in civilian courts with all

internationally recognised guarantees of fair

trial.