Eight men sentenced to death by an Alexandria military court in October 2018 for their alleged involvement in deadly attacks on churches in Cairo, Tanta and Alexandria were executed on Monday, according to lawyer Osama Bayoumi.
According to Bayoumi, the parents of Walid Abu Al-Majd Abdullah, Mohamed Mubarak Abdel Salam, Salama Ahmed Salama, Ali Shahat Hussein, Ali Mahmoud Mohand Hassan, Abdoul Rahman Kamal Eddin Ali, Rifai Ali Ahmed Mohammed and Ramy Mohammed Abdel Hamid were notified of the executions in order to claim their sons’ bodies.
The eight men were among a total of 17 people sentenced to death by a military court in Alexandria in October 2018 in relation to the death of over 70 people in three separate attacks on churches in 2016 and 2017, as well as a checkpoint in Sinai.
In its October ruling, the military court stated that the defendants had targeted Cairo’s St. Peter and St. Paul Church in a December 2016 attack, which left 29 people dead, and Tanta’s St. George Coptic Orthodox Church and Alexandria’s St. Mark Coptic Orthodox church in the 2017 twin Palm Sunday bombings, which left 45 people dead.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the three attacks.
According to the October military court ruling, the defendants had been part of two terrorist cells affiliated with the Islamic State and had received training in Libya and Ethiopia. The court also stated that the defendants had been involved in the attack on the Negev checkpoint in Sinai, which left eight police officers dead.
The defendants’ appeal of the initial ruling was denied in May 2019.
The rights group Amnesty International criticized Monday’s execution in a statement published on its website.
“The attacks on Coptic Christian churches and a police checkpoint in 2017 were appalling, and the perpetrators should be held to account for their crimes. But a mass execution is no way to deliver justice. These men were executed following an unfair military trial and amid allegations that they were subjected to enforced disappearances and torture,” said Phil Luther, Amnesty International’s MENA Research Director.
According to a joint report issued by the Egyptian Front for Human Rights and the Committee for Justice based on the investigation’s case file, several defendants in the case told prosecutors that they were subjected to enforced disappearance and torture.
The issue of capital punishment in Egypt made headlines last year when the state carried out at least 39 executions between December 2018 and February 2019. The accelerated pace of the executions sparked concern from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which published a statement calling on Egyptian authorities to halt executions in light of persistent allegations of unfair trials.
Egypt has been criticized by local and international rights organizations for issuing hundreds of death sentences since the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi, with many of those convicted being accused of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and militant groups. Human rights groups have pointed to a number of examples that suggest executions carried out in Egypt are “politicized and retaliatory.”
Nearly 500 defendants were handed death sentences in Egypt in 2018 alone, according to a 2019 report issued by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and the Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms.