U.S.: Carrying Out Egypt's Death Sentences Would Be 'Unconscionable'

The 529 death sentences for members of outlawed Muslim Brotherhood will play into U.S. aid policy toward country, State Department says.

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Relatives of Morsi supporters outside the courthouse in the central Egyptian city of Minya, during a session of the trial of some 700 Islamists, on March 25, 2014.Credit: AFP

The United States said on Tuesday that it would be "unconscionable" for Egypt to carry out the death sentences given to 529 members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood by an Egyptian court.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the death sentences given on Monday by the Egyptian court and the start of another mass trial on Tuesday of the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and 682 others "represent a flagrant disregard for basic standards of justice."

"The imposition of the death penalty for 529 defendants after a two-day summary proceeding cannot be reconciled with Egypt's obligations under international human rights law, and its implementation of these sentences ... would be unconscionable," Harf told a new briefing.

Harf said the United States is "currently evaluating our aid policy" toward Egypt and that "everything that happens on the ground, including this, will play into the decision about where our assistance relationship goes from here."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on March 12 he would decide "in the days ahead" whether to resume U.S. aid to Egypt after suspending the funds last year over the ouster of President Mohamed Mursi and a crackdown against protesters. 

The court in Minya, Egypt issued its ruling on Monday after only two sessions in which the defendants' lawyers complained they had no chance to present their case.

Those convicted are part of a group of 545 defendants on trial for the killing of a police officer, attempted killing of two others, attacking a police station and other acts of violence.

More than 150 suspects stood trial, the others were tried in absentia. Sixteen were acquitted.

The defendants were arrested after violent demonstrations that were a backlash for the police crackdown in August on pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo that killed hundreds of people.