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Egyptian official urges mass death sentence be put ‘in perspective’

March 25th, 2014
05:02 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

An Egyptian official urged on Tuesday that a death sentence for 528 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood be put “in perspective.”

The people in question were “implicated in acts of sabotage and violent offenses,” Salah Abdel Sadek, chairman of Egypt's State Information Service, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

“There is the right to challenge the verdict.”

An Egyptian court on Monday sentenced the defendants on charges related to violent riots in the southern Egyptian city of Minya last August, including the murder of a police officer, the country's official news agency said.

The riots took place after a deadly crackdown by security forces on two large sit-ins in Cairo, where demonstrators were supporting ousted President Mohammed Morsy.

Sadek insisted that the Egyptian judiciary is independent, free from interference of “executive authority.”

“Egypt does not have an independent judiciary”, Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution, and author of “Temptations of Power,” told Amanpour. “It’s a very politicized judiciary.”

'Unprecedented' oppression in Egypt

“And let’s recall [the judiciary] played a very active role in supporting the military coup on July 3rd [2013]. So we can’t treat Egypt as a normal democratic state, where there’s a separation of powers.”

Hamid called the decision the “largest mass death sentence in modern Egyptian history.”

The government is trying to use a “populist moment in Egyptian history,” Hamid said, “to deliver what they hope to be a decisive blow against the Brotherhood.”

“This isn’t just a regime that’s acting on its own. It has the passionate, enthusiastic support of millions of Egyptians…There’s a kind of bloodlust on the popular level.”

Egypt has been ruled by a military-backed government since President Mohamed Morsy was deposed last July just one year after being elected.

The country will soon hold presidential elections, and if the military chief Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi as expected, analysts say he will assuredly win.

“At the very beginning we were comparing it to the Mubarak regime,” Hamid said. “Now those comparisons aren’t even appropriate. We have to go all the way back to the Nasser era to see this level of oppression, [and] I think in many ways it has surpassed that.”

“The sheer level of oppression we’ve seen since the coup is unprecedented.”

Also under in the government’s vice are journalists.

Three Al Jazeera journalists – including one, Mohamed Fahmy, who has previously worked for CNN – were again in court on Monday facing charges of spreading false news and belonging to a terrorist organization, which Al Jazeera strongly denies.

“We don’t have many journalists in custody or in jail,” Sadek, the information chief, said. “We have people who have broken the Egyptian law and they are being dealt with the normal Egyptian law, not with an exceptional or emergency [law] or anything like that.”

“We don’t imprison journalists,” he said.

Egypt official defends charging journalists

Amanpour struck back, saying “Everybody knows that these are politically trumped-up charges.”

The government abides by “our Egyptian law,” Sadek said. “Of course we care about opinions and about reactions. And that’s why I’m talking to you now.”

“Either they are going to be freed for not being guilty of anything, or they are going to be – to have some kind of a verdict against what they have done.”

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Egypt • Latest Episode
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. john2397

    It is shameful for the Obama Administration to only demand that the Egypt dictator should not execute the crowd of more than 1000 Egyptians who were opposing to their dictator, who has toppled their elected government and kept the President in jail for the last 6 months. Rather Obama should request the U. N. Security Council to catch the thug and send him to Hague for human rights violation and crimes against humanity, similar he is doing in Ukraine. But Obama has guts to do anything against the Arab kings, dictators and Israel, who have made him a silent supporter of the genocides, massacres and oppression in that part of the world.

    March 25, 2014 at 5:58 pm | Reply
  2. helmy elaassar

    USA excuted Bin laden without a trial at all , US soldjers ripped the hearts of prisoners in abo ghareib prison in iraq to take pictures with it!! Guantanamou prison is an example of the justice America likes....!! but when Gangs of thousands Moslem Bro. kills, burns alive, slaughters, drag corps by cars, bomb & shoot people insides their homes, Churches or offices all in front of cameras then the judge find 2% of them guilty by Videos & proofs in front of his eyes while most of them admits sharing in the killings what else can he do but following the Law????? where is ur brains people? .... THINK its not how many r facing a verdict it is the justice if u r not deceiving your followers my Dear.

    March 25, 2014 at 6:20 pm | Reply
    • Amin Kader

      well said- also, they say that of the 529 only 22 are ikhwan- so the court decision was not targeting ikhwan – was not politically motivated rather it is giving a bunch of criminals what they deserve

      March 26, 2014 at 3:37 pm | Reply
  3. fastbikkel

    @helmy elaassar
    The US had every right to go out and kill Bin Laden. After all, he was the one that openly declared war on the US.

    March 25, 2014 at 6:54 pm | Reply
    • Esra

      US hired, trained and sponsored Bin Laden for years. So have a fun with your own creature!
      He just did what you want him to do to the world.

      March 25, 2014 at 7:45 pm | Reply
  4. McTheodore

    All that has happen in Egypt in the last few years illustrates a major limitation on social media based activism. The people rise up but do not have anyone in real life with a consistent plan to insure that what the will of the people is carried out. What happens is that the political formation that is most ready fills the vaccuum when the government falls. First it was the Muslim brotherhood. Now, it's the army – none of which stand for what the Egyptian people truly want. They simply have to toy with popular sentiment, no matter how outrageous, and the deed is done.

    March 25, 2014 at 7:35 pm | Reply
    • Jose M. Rivera

      Agreed. The same thing can be said of Syria. A courageous crowd got together via "social media" to confront Assad and his policies. But there was not one strong leader or group to represent and coalesce the opposition with one voice and an alternative to the regime in power. It is very hard to support a revolution if you do not know how to channel your resources, and end up creating a worst enemy than the one that needs to be replaced. USA learned the Al-Qaeda lesson.

      March 26, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Reply
  5. Bruceben9

    Anyone that feels these islamists are being treated unfairly should go live amongst them for a year or two, if you live that long. Thank goodness Egypt's current governors have the guts to remove these pyookes from the midst of decent human beings. I wish these islamists were more wise but , they are not. To allow them to Rome freely is to allow more murder of innocents. You go Egypt. Erase them.

    March 25, 2014 at 11:19 pm | Reply
    • Amin Kader


      March 26, 2014 at 3:38 pm | Reply
  6. ashok

    Perspective ?

    March 26, 2014 at 2:25 am | Reply
  7. allin fasho

    this is very stupid why kill all of these people for one police officer ..... this is the stupidist thing i ever heard.....may Allah be with them muslim brothers and all muslims around the world

    March 26, 2014 at 9:15 am | Reply
    • helmy elaassar

      u should know our law. 1- if u share in killing one or a million & confess u did the judge will give u the maximum sentence in the first court 2- then u apeel & get a secound round & then u claim unguilty & retrial based on evidence which could take years & if u r not proved guilty u r send home free. 3- moslem broth. use this twist of law to advertise a bad image of Egypt through their deceiving news chanels like CNN to put presure & find market to sell the terorism to Obama & the west for billions of tax payers money . so u can fool all the people all the time only in America. IQ issue thats all . finaly Ms, Amanpour post what i write dont do like dectators ( yesturday u hided 2 posts of mine )

      March 26, 2014 at 5:27 pm | Reply
      • Moody

        Shut up ur f**** mouth don't keep defending this absurdity like a jerk.

        March 26, 2014 at 11:24 pm |
  8. Franco

    It's a slaughter.

    March 26, 2014 at 2:00 pm | Reply
  9. Jeff

    Yep, lets put it in perspective: You handed down a death sentence for 500+ people at once after two court dates.

    I'm certainly not an opponent of the death penalty, but this is a bit ridiculous....

    March 26, 2014 at 2:30 pm | Reply
  10. helmy elaassar

    @Moody the jerk is the one that make jugment & insult opinions based on deceiving news . the 529 conicts r like the 22 teen girls who received 10 on first court date because they told the judge "yes we did it & if u release us we will do it again " then one second date they said we r sorry so they went home. now who is the jerk???????

    March 27, 2014 at 5:10 am | Reply
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