Egypt’s Court of Cassation, the highest appeals court, upheld the death sentence handed down to 13 defendants on a charge of murder and committing acts of violence.
The ruling is final and may not be appealed, but President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi may issue an amnesty to pardon those whose sentences were issued by the Court of Cassation.
According to Egyptian law, once a death sentence is final, the defendant’s file is referred to the president via the Minister of Justice. If the president does not issue a pardon the defendant or change the sentence within 14 days, the sentence is carried out.
In July 2015, the country’s Prosecutor General referred the 13 men for a criminal trial over accusations including “committing acts of violence and killing six police officers” as well as membership in the terrorist organisation Ajnad Misr (Soldiers of Egypt). The defendants deny the charges.
Ajnad Misr emerged in the wake of the 2013 military coup that ousted President Mohamed Morsi. The group launched attacks on police and military sites in North Sinai and other areas in Egypt. In 2014, the US State Department placed the group on its “Specially Designated Global Terrorists” list.
Human rights groups and activists have repeatedly criticised Egypt’s use of the death penalty. Since March 2015, the authorities have executed scores of defendants who had been sentenced to death in court cases, in addition to extrajudicial killings that the authorities claim took place in exchange of fire situations with terrorists.