The Cairo Criminal Court on Saturday referred the papers of Hisham Ashmawi and 36 other defendants
to the Grand Mufti in the case known to the media as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis.
This measure means that the court is moving towards issuing a death sentence for the 37 accused.
The defendants were sentenced during a mass trial of 213 people. The extensive use of mass trials in
Egypt has been heavily criticised, especially as defendants are often sentenced to death and hundreds
detained for long periods of time.
The Egyptian prosecution accuses all those in this case of committing 54 acts of terror, including
assassinations of police officers, an attempt to assassinate the former Minister of Interior Mohamed
Ibrahim, bombings of several security installations, and assuming leadership of terrorist groups.
The court determined a session on March 2, to pronounce the ruling.
Under Egyptian law, the court is obliged to seek the opinion of the Grand Mufti before issuing death
sentences, but the mufti’s opinion remains advisory.
The prosecution charged the 213 with establishing and assuming leadership and joining a terrorist
group, aimed at disrupting the provisions of the constitution and laws and preventing state institutions
from carrying out their activities, assaulting the rights and freedoms of citizens and harming national
unity and social peace.
It also accused them of collaborating with a foreign organisation (the Palestinian Hamas movement),
sabotaging state facilities, premeditated murder, and obtaining automatic weapons, ammunition, and
Last November, a military court sentenced Ashmawi to death after convicting him of several crimes,
including masterminding an attack in 2014 that killed 22 border guards near the border with Libya and
involvement in the assassination attempt on a former interior minister in 2013.
On May 29 last year, Cairo announced that the Libyan General Khalifa Haftar handed over Hisham
Ashmawi, according to Egyptian TV and the official Egyptian news agency. Haftar’s forces arrested
Ashmawi in the city of Derna, in eastern Libya, in October 2018.
The defendants in that case may have been actually been convicted, but the mass trials are questionable
for their integrity and raise fears that among the people who have been sentenced there are innocent
Dissidents accuse the Egyptian regime of instigating sympathy for terrorist groups with its repressive
methods and unfair trials.
Experts stress that official terrorism should not be used to resist terror groups, and that injustice and
persecution feeds terrorist ideas and groups. They stress that state terrorism is much more dangerous.
Human rights activists demand that these trials be fair and accurate, so that innocent people are not
punished, and that a sense of justice is the most important means of eliminating terrorism.
Opponents say that the Egyptian regime uses the laws of terrorism to oppress their opponents and that
it accuses political activists and human rights defenders of terrorism.
Opponents consider the case of Hisham Ashmawi as clear evidence that the regime’s oppression and
injustice are the primary cause of the terror industry. Hisham Ashmawi was an officer in the Egyptian
army who defected and led an armed group, benefiting from the military training he received in the
According to the accounts of those close to Ashmawi, his fight against the Egyptian regime started as a
result of his feeling that it is an unjust regime. He demanded the application of Islamic law as the
guarantor of justice.