White House ‘deeply troubled’ by mass death sentence in Egypt

The White House said it is “deeply troubled” by the mass death sentence handed down in Egypt on Monday to the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and hundreds of other people.

The ruling by an Egyptian court condemned to death 683 members of the the April 6 Youth Movement and the Muslim Brotherhood, including the group’s supreme guide, 70-year-old Mohamed Badie, following a trial that lasted only a eight minutes.

The same judge had sentenced another 529 people to death in a similarly speedy mass trial in March. On Monday, he commuted 492 of those sentences to life in prison and confirmed 39 death sentences.

The Obama administration, which recently signaled it is prepared to reinstate a billion dollar aid package for Egypt, said in a statement on Monday that the verdicts defy the most basic standards of international justice.

“The Egyptian government has the responsibility to ensure that every citizen is afforded due process, including the right to a fair trial in which evidence is clearly presented, and access to an attorney,” the statement said.

“While judicial independence is a vital part of democracy, this verdict cannot be reconciled with Egypt’s obligations under international human rights law. Egyptian leaders must 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 White House urged the Egyptian government to end the use of mass trials, reverse the sentences, and guarantee due process.

“A fair and transparent criminal justice system free of intimidation and political retribution is an important part of any democracy, and the Egyptian people deserve no less,” the statement said.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, who is in Washington for a visit this week, invoked the Patriot Act and Guantanamo Bay to counter U.S. criticism of Egypt’s crackdown on Brotherhood members and opposition activists.

Despite the mass trials and jailings, Egypt will be beacon of regional intellectualism, Fahmy said on Monday at a forum at the nonprofit Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He said the legal process should be allowed to follow through, and no one should jump to any conclusions yet.

The verdicts are being appealed.

Hannah Allam contributed to this report.