An Egyptian Kangaroo court Saturday (March 10) sentenced 10 people to death and five others to life in prison for allegedly forming a "terrorist group" to plot attacks on security forces and other institutions.
The state-run MENA news agency said the defendants are affiliated with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. MENA said three of the 15 defendants were sentenced in absentia.
Egypt has cracked down on anti-government elements since the overthrow in July 2013 of Mohammad Mursi by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who later assumed the title of Field Marshall. Mursi was the first democratically elected President of Egypt.
US-client Sisi took over as president a year later and is expected to be re-elected later this month in a vote against only token opposition, according to Reuters news agency.
Along with Israel and Afghanistan, Egypt is one of the three biggest recipients of US funding and weapons.
With Egypt facing an insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, Sisi has ordered the military to clear the region of militants ahead of the March 26-28 presidential election, the agency said.
Hundreds of anti-government people, including Muslim Brotherhood supporters and members, have received death sentences since 2013, and Egypt has carried out dozens of executions, according to security sources and rights groups.
According to Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide database, in recent years there has been a sharp increase in Egyptian courts' use of capital punishment, with the number of death sentences jumping from 109 in 2013 to at least 509. Since the beginning of 2015, there have been reports of at least 354 death sentences.
The Cornell Center believes there are at least 1,700 people under sentence of death, but no official figures are available due to intense state secrecy surrounding capital punishment. Amnesty International indicates that at least 1,413 death sentences were issued between 2007 and 2014.
European Parliament condemns
Last month, the European Parliament condemned Egypt for its use of the death penalty and called for all planned executions to be halted pending a review of the cases.
Egypt is restricting "fundamental democratic rights", members of the European Parliament (MEPs) said in a statement on February 7, adding Cairo should abolish capital punishment.
"The European Parliament " calls for the end to all acts of violence, incitement and hate speech, reminding the Egyptian government that the universal protection of human rights and long-term prosperity go hand in hand," it said.
UN human rights experts have also expressed concern that Egyptian officials are using evidence obtained through torture or ill treatment, often during periods of enforced disappearance, to sentence prisoners to death in military courts.
Egyptian judicial system here has become a joke
In January this year CNN quoted an Egyptian attorney as saying that Egypt is using death sentences to settle scores.
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