Egypt on Wednesday voiced its rejection of criticism of recent mass death sentences against supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, terming it “unacceptable interference in the judiciary affairs,” according to the Xinhua news agency.
Earlier this week, a court in Minya, Egypt, sentenced 683 supporters of former president Mohammed Morsi to death, including leading members of his Muslim Brotherhood.
The mass trial was condemned by the world. The White House said it was “deeply troubled” by the death sentences and called on Egyptian leaders “to take a stand against this illogical action and dangerous precedent, recognizing that the repression of peaceful dissent will fuel the instability and radicalization that Egypt says it wishes to prevent.”
The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, also denounced the mass death sentence, saying it breached international law and urged Cairo authorities to ensure defendants’ rights to a fair and timely trial.
“We reaffirm the independency of the Egyptian judiciary and reject any interference from anybody, whether it is a country or an organization,” Egypt’s Justice Minister Nayer Osman said in a press conference Wednesday, according to Xinhua.
“There are legal ways to appeal these verdicts, and the judge is a human being who may make an unintentional mistake,” he added, reaffirming that the death sentences are not final and that all defendants were being tried “before an ordinary court by a natural judge, not by an extraordinary court.”
The Egyptian justice minister also clarified that 608 of the defendants whose papers were referred to the Mufti to confirm their death sentences were tried “in absentia,” and they have the right to defend themselves when they show up as the court would re- start their trial.
On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy announced he would not approve sending funds to the Egyptian military because of the “sham trial”, as he put it.
The mass death sentences are part of a continuing crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood by the army-backed interim government. Since Morsi’s ouster, hundreds of Islamists have been placed on trial, and the Muslim Brotherhood has been outlawed and designated as a terrorist organization.