Egyptians sentenced to death in absentia for espionage, escaping prison speak out
Prominent Egyptian professor Emad Shahin

Some high-profile Egyptians currently living abroad are speaking out after being sentenced to death in absentia on Saturday, the latest incident of sweeping death penalties handed down to purported Muslim Brotherhood affiliates.

The Cairo Criminal Court sent death sentences for more than 100 defendants — including former President Mohamed Morsi — to the grand mufti for review. The defendants were convicted in two seperate cases on charges of espionage and breaking out of Wadi al-Natrun prison in 2011. 

Among those convicted were renowned scholar Emad Shahin, who currently resides in the United States, and Morsi’s communications advisor Sondos Asem, who now lives in the United Kingdom.

Shahin, a distinguished visiting scholar at Columbia University, lambasted the verdict as “a travesty of justice,” insisting that he was falsely charged.

“Note that I am hardly the only victim of injustice in this case,” he wrote.

The verdicts are an example of “the deeply troubling way the Egyptian judiciary has been used as a tool to settle political disagreements by the harshest and most repressive means possible,” Shahin continued.

“Due process, regard for evidence and a minimum standard of justice have been tossed aside in favor of draconian injustice,” he argued.

Shahin further accused the army and security agencies of waging a counter-revolution against anything associated with the January 25 revolution, “combatting the aspirations of Egyptians for building a free and democratic society.”

“As an independent academic and scholar, I will continue to uphold and defend democratic values, human rights and national reconciliation. These are the exact values that Egypt needs at the moment to chart a peaceful course in the future. I believe this is the essence of why I was targeted and what my case is all about,” he declared.

Echoing Shahin, Asem — who is pursing a degree in public policy at the University of Oxford — described the ruling as “absurd,” and decried the trial for lacking the very basics of due process in both Egyptian and international law.

“Like thousands of Egyptian youth who are currently thrown in jails for their political activism, I would never have imagined that in post-revolutionary Egypt I can get prosecuted for simply doing my job as foreign media coordinator in the office of our democratically elected president,” she wrote.

Asem also said such “kangaroo trials” have become a “political tool at the hands of a military regime that committed the worst human rights violations in Egypt’s history.”

She vowed to pursue legal action to clear the charges against her, and lamented not being able to return to Egypt and visit her family until then.

Amnesty International released a statement calling the trial a “charade,” and called on the Egyptian authorities to disregard all evidence obtained while Morsi and his co-defendants were “forcibly disappeared.” The defendants should either be released immediately or retried in a civilian court in line with Egyptian and international law, Amnesty insisted.

“Condemning Mohamed Morsi to death after more grossly unfair trials shows a complete disregard for human rights. His trials were undermined even before he set foot in the courtroom. The fact that he was held for months incommunicado without judicial oversight and that he didn’t have a lawyer to represent him during the investigations makes these trials nothing but a charade based on null and void procedures,” said Said Boumedouha, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.  

Morsi was convicted of unlawfully escaping from Wadi al-Natrun prison during the security void in the early days of the 2011 revolution. The prosecution contended that several Muslim Brotherhood leaders escaped from prison during this time, alongside hundreds of other prisoners, including members of the Palestinian-based group Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. 

However, Hamas issued a statement following the ruling that claimed some of the defendants convicted in the prison escape case were martyred before the 2011 revolution, like Tayseer Abu Seneima and Hossam al-Sanea. Others were detained in Israeli prisons at the time of the purported escape, like Hassan Salama, who has been in Israeli prison for the past 19 years, Hamas alleged.

Morsi also received a provisional death sentence, along with 15 other Brotherhood members, in connection with conducting espionage for Qatar, Hamas and Iran’s revolutionary guard.


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