Monday,16 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1354, (27 July - 2 August 2017)
Monday,16 July, 2018
Issue 1354, (27 July - 2 August 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Death sentences upheld

South Cairo Criminal Court confirms the death sentences passed on 28 defendants for involvement in the assassination of prosecutor-general Hisham Barakat, reports Ahmed Morsy

The aftermath of Barakat’s assassination

South Cairo Criminal Court has issued death sentences for 28 of the 66 defendants accused of involvement in the assassination of prosecutor-general Hisham Barakat in 2015. Fifteen of the remaining defendants were sentenced to 25 years, eight to 15 years and 15 to 10 years.

Saturday’s sentences are not final and can be appealed.

“I address these words to the Egyptian people, to the conscience of the peoples of the world and to those countries that support terrorism,” Hassan Farid, the leading judge in the case, said in his ruling statement. “Egyptian judges have nothing to do with politics. Our rulings are based only on evidence, proof and observation.”

“Papers submitted in this case reveal that Muslim Brotherhood leaders who fled to Qatar and Turkey agreed with leaders of the Hamas movement to spread discord and sedition in Egypt by carrying out attacks on state institutions, on the army, police, judiciary and members of the media. They also planned to target diplomatic and consular missions in the country and public figures in order to destabilise the state, intimidate the public and spread chaos.”

The court first issued death sentences for Barakat’s assassins in June when the sentences were referred to the grand mufti who, under the penal code, gives a non-binding consultative opinion.

Barakat died in hospital in June 2015 after a bomb attack targeted his motorcade ahead of the second anniversary of the ouster of Mohamed Morsi. Speaking at Barakat’s funeral in 2015, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi vowed “swift justice” and pledged to accelerate the crackdown against Islamist extremism. Within weeks he introduced new counter-terrorism laws in which the definition of terrorism was expanded to include acts that “disturb public order and social peace” and “harm national unity and the national economy”.

Defendants accused of involvement in the assassination of Barakat behind bars (photo: Reuters)

On 1 July 2015 the Interior Ministry announced that 20 people had been arrested in connection to Barakat’s murder. They were accused of administering the Facebook page of the Popular Resistance in Giza, a shadowy group that claimed responsibility for the assassination of Barakat only to delete its post within hours.

Security experts were doubtful of the claim. The Popular Resistance, they said, was an inexperienced group incapable of the sophisticated planning that was involved in Barakat’s assassination. It was far more likely, they said, that the attack was the work of Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis.

Since Morsi’s removal as president in 2013 Egypt has been fighting an Islamist insurgency led by the Islamic State’s branch in North Sinai, formerly known as Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis. Hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed. Though Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis is at the forefront of militant groups launching attacks against security targets, other smaller militant groups — like Hasm, Lewaa Al-Thawra, Agnad Misr and the Popular Resistance — have emerged, claiming responsibility for attacks.

The court said the defendants faced a variety of charges: involvement in the assassination of the prosecutor-general, responsibility for other deaths and injuries sustained in the attack and membership of an outlawed organisation, the Muslim Brotherhood.

The 66 defendants, 15 of whom were tried in absentia, are also accused of coordinating with Hamas to stage terrorist operations in Egypt.

Farid’s ruling confirmed allegations that the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas were behind the assassination first made in a press conference in March 2016 by Interior Minister Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar. Abdel-Ghaffar told journalists the plot was concocted on the instructions of Brotherhood leaders in Turkey who coordinated with the “armed branch of the Brotherhood, Hamas” which trained the assassins in Gaza.

At the time both Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood denied any involvement.

During Abdel-Ghaffar’s conference a video was shown in which some of the defendants confessed that they had received training in Gaza from Hamas. They later retracted the confessions, claiming they were made under torture.

Saturday’s session was the culmination of 37 court hearings.

Gamal Khairi, one of the defendants who received a 15-year jail term, is blind.

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