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In Egypt, even the dead are sent to the gallows

AFP-JIJI, Reuters

Dr. Badawi was killed on Aug. 14, but he was among 37 people whose death sentences were confirmed Monday by an Egyptian court that sentenced another 683 to the gallows.

The case of Dr. Badawi, whose first name wasn’t given, is not unique. Lawyers said two other defendants sentenced to death by the court in the central city of Minya for demonstrating in support of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi were already dead on the day of the protest last year.

It is an extreme example of what the international community has described as the judicial farce of mass trials lasting just two brief sessions and resulting in death sentences for hundreds of defendants, most of them not even in custody.

Monday’s hearing lasted just 10 minutes, said defense lawyer Khaled Elkomy. None of the defendants were brought to court for the session.

In a statement issued in London, the banned Muslim Brotherhood described the ruling as chilling and said it would “continue to use all peaceful means to end military rule.”

An Islamist alliance that includes the Brotherhood called on Egyptians to protest against the death sentences in the streets of Cairo Wednesday.

Several female relatives of the accused fainted outside the court on hearing of the death sentences handed down by Judge Said Youssef Sabry.

Sabry sentenced 683 alleged Islamists — including Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie — to death after convicting them of the murder and attempted murder of several policemen on Aug. 14.

He commuted to life imprisonment 492 death sentences he handed down after a similar rushed mass trial last month but upheld 37 others.

“Among them is Dr. Badawi, who was shot and killed on the day of the incidents that the defendants are accused of,” said Samia Abu Amr, as she held a crumpled sheet of paper listing the names of the 37.

To her relief, her brother’s name was not among them.

Badawi’s family received a court summons on Aug. 23, nine days after his death, said defense lawyer Mohamed Abdel Wahab.

Only 73 of the 683 defendants sentenced to death on Monday are in custody, prosecutor Abdel Rahim Abdel Malek said. The others have a right to a retrial if they turn themselves in.

At least three of those convicted were out of the country on the day of the alleged offenses and have Saudi visas to prove it, said defense layer Arabi Mabrouk.

Samia said her brother “had never participated in any protests.” She said his name had been added to the list of defendants solely because “he had refused to give money to a police officer.”

Asmaa Abdel Wahab said her husband had been convicted even though he had taken his father to a hospital on the day of the protest.

“The court has not done even basic checks on the defendants,” said Mohamed Salama, a colleague.

Mass trials in the most populous Arab state have reinforced fears among human rights groups that the government and anti-Islamist judges are using all levers of power to crush opponents.

“The decisions are possibly the largest possible death sentences in recent world history. While they’re exceptional in scale, they’re certainly not exceptional in kind,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director for Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch.

“It seems that these sentences are aimed at striking fear and terror into the hearts of those who oppose the interim government.”