Four juvenile cases escape death sentence at mass trial in Egyptian military court

Four young men in Egypt have escaped the death penalty for crimes allegedly committed when they were minors. Three of the men, who were all arrested, detained and tortured by Egyptian security forces while they were still children, have been acquitted and released, and the fourth sentenced to a three-year prison term. The four young men, who are supported by Trust grantee Reprieve, had been charged with two offences of being members of a terrorist cell, after being arrested without a warrant and forced to make confessions under torture. All four cases successfully escaped the death penalty.

One of them, Ammar al-Sudany, aged 17 at the time of his arrest, was blindfolded and handcuffed after security forces raided his home in December 2016. His father had been arrested and detained the previous day for his support of former President Mohammed Morsi – who was democratically elected in 2012 and overthrown in 2013 by the military coup. Despite his father’s support of Morsi, Ammar himself had never been to a protest. After three years of detention and torture, including beatings and electric shocks administered to his body, Ammar faced the prospect of being sentenced to death on 9th March 2020 at a mass trial of over 300 people at the north Cairo military court.

Reprieve identified the four juvenile cases in 2018 and connected with lawyers working on the cases, also engaging with European missions and persuading them to conduct trial monitoring. Reprieve filed a complaint with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which then issued an opinion calling on Egypt to release the juveniles. Their engagement with UK parliamentarians led to the cases being publicised in national and international media through a joint letter from cross-party MPs and Lords, addressed to the Foreign Secretary, calling for their release. Ahead of the verdict session, Reprieve shared a briefing with different diplomatic missions asking them to raise the case when meeting with the Egyptian government. The variety of pressure points targeted by Reprieve’s work appears to have contributed to the successful outcome in the case.

Maya Foa, Director of Casework at Reprieve, said: “When we hear about mass trials where hundreds of defendants face death sentences, caged together in a courtroom, it can be easy to forget that each of those people has a story and a family. So when a mother breaks into tears after being asked to describe her son’s condition following months of torture and mistreatment, it reminds us of the human cost of President Sisi’s crackdown on dissent.”

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