The Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms has said that three political prisoners, executed at dawn on Thursday, were arrested on charges of involvement in armed attacks and allegedly belonging to terrorist groups.

The Independent, a human rights NGO, issued a statement in the early hours of Sunday saying that security forces carried out the death sentence last week by hanging three detainees.

According to human rights sources, the sentences were implemented against Ibrahim Ismail, who was sentenced to death in four cases, the latest of which is the case known as the “Helwan Church.” 

Muhammad Jamal Hindawi was sentenced to death in the case known as the “Embassy of Niger,” and Abdel Rahman Abdel Rahim Aouda was convicted of belonging to the organisation the “State of Sinai.”

In January 2018 an Egyptian court sentenced Muhammad Jamal Hindawi to death and sentenced four others to life imprisonment in the case of the attack on the Niger embassy. At the time local media said it resulted in the death of a Central Security Forces soldier and the injury of others.

Another court also sentenced Ibrahim Ismail to death after he was accused of attacking the Helwan Church in late 2017 and killing a number of its visitors, according to the ruling, which the defendant later denied, and said he was forced to confess to these charges.

Egyptian and international human rights organisations accuse the Egyptian authorities of issuing hundreds of death sentences in trials that lack the most basic rules of justice, in addition to forcing many detainees to confess to crimes they did not commit under torture.

Seven human rights organisations and the campaign “Stop the Execution” in Egypt condemned, in a joint statement, the secrecy and the absolute silence practiced by the Egyptian government on the implementation of the death sentences. 

The joint legal statement said that “the trials of the three victims and others in political cases lacked the standards for fair trials, and were issued from an exceptional judiciary in summary and arbitrary procedures before the military judiciary and the Supreme State Security (emergency) courts, whose decisions cannot be appealed.”

The statement indicated that the Egyptian authorities refused to investigate the incidents of enforced disappearance and torture of those sentenced to death, as well as failed to respond to requests by the various prosecution offices and before the courts, in addition to not responding to the requests of lawyers assigned to defend them.

The Egyptian “Stop the Execution” campaign and the signatories of the statement confirmed their complete rejection of the death penalty, “for violating the right to life in general, and its misuse by the Egyptian authorities in particular, especially after monitoring mass death sentences against many civilians.” 

Most of those arrested were forcibly disappeared, tortured and coerced into confessing to crimes they did not commit.

The organisations added: “It is no longer hidden for anyone what the Egyptian authorities are doing towards a specific type of case, in which the accused are denied trial [and are instead subjected to] lengthy trials before the military judiciary, or before exceptional judicial circles such as terrorism or the state security courts.”

The signatories of the statement demanded a halt to the execution of all death sentences in cases where final judgments have been issued, an end to the referral of political cases to exceptional courts, and the end of civilian trials before military courts.

From the beginning of this year until September, the Court of Cassation upheld the execution of 32 people, pending nine cases, making their execution enforceable, according to human rights reports.

The same court also issued preliminary rulings of the execution of at least 320 people in 170 cases, some of them of political prisoners, and referred the papers of 147 people to the Mufti of the Republic to consider their execution, including eight people in military cases.

A report issued by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights revealed that, since January 2011, the Egyptian authorities have issued 2,726 death sentences in various cases, including 717 in 2018.

According to the report’s data, the number of death sentences issued in Egypt has increased dramatically since 2013 as 2011 witnessed 123 death sentences, which reached 509 in 2014, before reaching its peak in 2018 with 717 death sentences.

Since the late President Mohamed Morsi was toppled by a military coup in the summer of 2013, the Egyptian judiciary has expanded the use of the death sentence against opponents, issuing nearly 1,500 death sentences.

From 2014 until February 2019, the Egyptian authorities executed 42 political prisoners. Roughly 80 other people are awaiting execution of their death sentence at any time since their sentences became final.