U.S. Warns Against Executing Brotherhood Members

Executing 529 Brotherhood supporters may affect the aid that Washington provides to Cairo, says State Department.

Elad Benari ,

Muslim Brotherhood supporters
Muslim Brotherhood supporters
AFP photo

The United States warned Egypt on Tuesday that executing supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood may affect the aid that Washington provides to Cairo.

Speaking one day after an Egyptian court sentenced 529 supporters of the movement to death, Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf called the sentencing "shocking."

"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, as I said, would be unconscionable," she stressed, according to AFP.

"If Egypt's leaders want to ensure a political transition to democracy that ultimately improves the stability and economic prospects of their country and their people, and that's respected by the Egyptian people, they must unequivocally ensure an environment that is free of intimidation or retribution," Harf added.

"This includes ensuring due process and fair trials for all Egyptians accused of crimes."

Harf made clear that the way Egypt proceeds regarding the trials and death sentences will have consequences for future American aid.

The United States has already announced it would cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Egypt over its displeasure with the military's pace of restoring democracy following the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi.

U.S. law forbids sending aid to countries where a democratic government was deposed by a military coup, though Washington has never qualified Morsi’s ouster as a "coup" and has been cautious about doing so, choosing only to condemn the violence in the country.

"We are determining if this assistance will stay suspended, if more will be suspended, if some will be brought back on line. And suffice to say, things like (these) outrageous, shocking, unconscionable actions that the Egyptian government is taking will, of course, have an impact on that decision," Harf said on Tuesday, according to the Reuters news agency.

"We are making clear to the Egyptian government that these verdicts cannot be allowed to stand," she added. "The government of Egypt should be taking action to increase the freedoms of the Egyptian people, not to suppress them, thereby feeding into the exact extremism that undermines peace and security."

Harf’s remarks come one day after the U.S. said it is "deeply concerned" about the death sentences handed down to the 529 Muslim Brotherhood Islamists.

"While appeals are possible, it simply does not seem possible that a fair review of evidence and testimony consistent with international standards could be accomplished with over 529 defendants after a two-day trial," a State Department official said.

"We continue to call on the Egyptian government to ensure that all those detained in Egypt are afforded fair proceedings that respect civil liberties and due process and are consistent with international standards. The law must be applied equitably and free of political bias."

Meanwhile on Tuesday, the trial of a further 682 Islamists began, among them the Brotherhood's spiritual leader, Mohammed Badie, who was arrested last August after a brief spell in hiding.