Egypt executes nine over 2015 murder of prosecutor Hisham Barakat

Hangings carried out despite last-minute plea by rights group Amnesty International for a stay of executions.

    Egyptian authorities executed nine suspected Muslim Brotherhood members convicted of the involvement in the assassination of Egypt's top prosecutor Hisham Barakat.

    The executions by hanging were carried out on Wednesday in a Cairo prison.

    In November, Egypt's top appeals court confirmed death sentences for the nine people convicted in then-chief prosecutor Barakat's murder in June 2015, when a car bomb exploded near his convoy as he drove through the capital.

    An interior ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief media, told The Associated Press the families of the men were told to pick up their bodies from a Cairo morgue.

    A total of 15 people have been executed in Egypt since the start of the year.

    "As these latest executions show, President [Abdel Fattah] el-Sisi's use of the death penalty is now a full-blown human rights crisis," Reprieve Director Maya Foa said in a statement.

    She noted under Sisi at least 12 juveniles have received preliminary death sentences and 1,451 have been confirmed. Torture, false confessions, and the repeated use of mass trials are now widespread in the country.

    "It is shocking that these abuses continue unabated while the international community remains silent," said Foa.

    170503074648055

    Tortured confessions?

    Rights group Amnesty International appealed to authorities on Tuesday to halt the hangings, citing testimony by the defendants that they had been secretly arrested and tortured into confessing.

    "There is no doubt that those involved in deadly attacks must be prosecuted and held accountable for their actions, but executing prisoners or convicting people based on confessions extracted through torture is not justice," said Amnesty's Najia Bounaim.

    "At least six men have already been executed earlier this month after unfair trials. Instead of stepping up executions, the Egyptian authorities should take steps to abolish the death penalty once and for all."

    Last week, Egypt hanged three people convicted of the 2013 murder of senior police officer Nabil Farag.

    France's Macron presses Sisi on human rights in Cairo meeting

    The previous week, it hanged three young "political detainees" convicted of the September 2013 murder of the son of a judge, Human Rights Watch reported.

    Muslim Brotherhood

    No one claimed responsibility for the 2015 attack against Barakat, but the authorities pointed the finger at members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood of overthrown President Mohamed Morsi.

    Since Morsi's overthrow by then army chief and now President Sisi in 2013, Egypt has cracked down on Islamists who backed the country's first democratically elected leader.

    Hundreds of Morsi supporters have been sentenced to death, while the former president and top Muslim Brotherhood figures have also faced trial.

    The Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed and branded a "terrorist organisation" in December 2013, just months after Morsi's removal.

    Many of the death sentences have been handed down at mass trials involving hundreds of defendants and lasting just days.

    Arrested, banned, exiled: Egypt's dissenting voices

    The Listening Post

    Arrested, banned, exiled: Egypt's dissenting voices

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies