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Human Rights Watch denounces Egypt’s mass executions 

In this file photo taken on April 21, 2015, top Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders Essam el-Erian (C) and Mohamed Beltagi (R) gesture with fellow accused from the defendants cage during their trial alongside 14 others. (Photo by AFP)

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has strongly denounced Egyptian authorities for executing at least 49 prisoners, including two women, in just 10 days.

The New York-based rights group said in a statement on Thursday that it compiled the executions between October 3 and 13 from reports in pro-government newspapers. 

According to the HRW, of the 49 killed, 15 were convicted of alleged involvement in political violence following the military overthrow in July 2013 of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi.

Some of the executed were found guilty in three separate cases, including 10 prisoners accused of carrying out attacks in 2014 for the armed group known as Soldiers of Egypt. 

Another three were executed for their alleged role in a 2013 attack on a police station in a suburb of the capital Cairo, and two others for a violent protest in Alexandria the same year.

According to the group, over a dozen of this month’s executions took place in Cairo’s notorious supermax facility following clashes last month inside the death row ward that left four policemen and four inmates dead.

At the time, authorities said the four prisoners, who had been sentenced to death in separate terrorism-related cases, were killed during an escape attempt. 

However, the HRW statement cited an anonymous human rights lawyer who challenged the government’s account. 

The lawyer said the four prisoners ambushed and fatally stabbed the guards during a routine inspection. Other inmates later saw security forces enter the cell and gunshots were heard. 

Other prisoners put to death had been sentenced for a range of crimes, including murder and rape.

“Egypt has had a pattern of judicial and suspicious extrajudicial killings following attacks on security forces or civilians in recent years,” the HRW statement said.

The rights organization also called on authorities to immediately halt carrying out death sentences, which are not typically announced – or even the prisoner’s family is not informed.

HRW’s Joe Stork called Egypt’s killing of 49 prisoners in 10 days "outrageous".

“Egypt’s mass executions of scores of people in a matter of days is outrageous,” he said. 

“The systematic absence of fair trials in Egypt, especially in political cases, makes every death sentence a violation of the right to life,” he added.

Morsi hailed from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood. Since his removal, authorities have banned the group and rounded up most of its leaders, including the former president who died in June 2019.

Morsi collapsed in a court last year and later passed away – a death that rights activists said was evidence of the “inhumane living conditions” in Egyptian prisons.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has long been facing international condemnation for his crackdown on political and civil society groups since he took power in 2014, a year after a military coup spearheaded by him toppled Morsi.

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