US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Egypt Wednesday to overturn a court decision sentencing 529 supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi to death, warning it sent a “negative message” around the world.
“I am deeply, deeply troubled by the sudden and unprecedented decision by an Egyptian court to issue preliminary death sentences for 529 citizens after a quick mass trial,” Kerry said in a statement, issued while he was on a surprise trip to Jordan.
“It simply defies logic,” he argued.
“I urge the interim Egyptian government to reverse the court ruling and ensure due process for the accused. Anything less would dishonour the bravery of all who sacrificed their lives for democratic values.”
The roughly 1,200 defendants in the case, including the 529 sentenced on Monday, are accused of murder and attempted murder in connection with the deaths of two Egyptian policemen during riots in Minya, south of Cairo, on August 14.
The rioting erupted as news spread that police had killed hundreds of supporters of Morsi, who was toppled by the army in July, while dispersing two Cairo protest camps.
In Cairo, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie went on trial Tuesday along with hundreds of other Islamists before the same judge who passed the death sentences.
Legal experts said Monday’s unprecedented sentences are likely to be overturned on appeal, after the court rushed through the verdict in just two hearings.
Kerry said the start of the second trial meant there was “greater urgency” to ensure due process after the first trial, saying: “It is impossible to believe that such a proceeding satisfied even the most basic standards of justice.
“The interim government must understand the negative message that this decision, if upheld, would send to the world about Egypt’s commitment to international law and inclusivity,” Kerry added.
The statement came before armed forces chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who toppled Morsi, announced he had resigned from the military to run for president in upcoming elections.