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Egypt: Amnesty condemns 'horrifying execution spree'

Dozens of people have been put to death in the past two months according to UK-based rights group
Amnesty said the 'execution spree' followed an incident in September at Cairo's Tora prison in which several policemen and death-row prisoners were killed in a botched breakout attempt (AFP)

Amnesty International has denounced a "horrifying execution spree" in Egypt, saying dozens of people had been put to death in the past two months.

The UK-based rights group said on Wednesday that "in October and November alone, the Egyptian authorities executed at least 57 men and women", adding that this was almost double the number for all of last year.

"The Egyptian authorities have embarked on a horrifying execution spree in recent months… in some cases following grossly unfair mass trials," Amnesty's regional research and advocacy director, Philip Luther, said in a statement.

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The rights group said the real number was likely to be higher "as Egyptian authorities do not publish statistics on executions or the number of prisoners on death row; nor do they inform families or lawyers in advance of executions".

Amnesty said it had been unable to independently verify pro-government media reports of more than 30 additional executions during the same period.

The group said the "execution spree" followed an incident in September at Cairo's notorious Tora prison, in which several policemen and death-row prisoners were killed in a botched breakout attempt.

'Rampant' use of torture

Human Rights Watch on 22 October said that Egypt had executed 49 prisoners in the first half of that month alone.

Both organisations urged Egyptian authorities to "immediately halt" executions, Reuters reported.

Amnesty also denounced the country's "rampant" use of torture.

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It accused Egyptian authorities of cracking down on rights organisations working on the issue of capital punishment, and cited the arrest last month of staff from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

Egypt has dismissed international criticism of those arrests.

Amnesty also highlighted the case of Wael Tawadros, a Coptic monk sentenced to death over the killing of the abbot of a desert monastery in 2018.

Tawadros "was sentenced to death following a grossly unfair trial, where the court relied on his torture-tainted 'confessions' to secure a conviction", Amnesty said.

His family told the group that Tawadros had been subject to "discriminatory and punitive treatment" in prison.

Amnesty said the number of prisoners at risk of being executed was unknown, citing authorities' "lack of transparency".

An ongoing, sweeping crackdown on dissent under Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has seen the arrest of secular activists, journalists, lawyers, academics and members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Rights groups estimate that about 60,000 detainees in Egypt are political prisoners.