Egypt prepares mass executions; US prepares aid

An Egyptian court in Minya, south of Cairo, on March 24 sentenced to death 529 supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, in a mass trial that lasted only two sessions. The 529 are accused  in an attack on a police station that left a senior officer dead in protests last August after Morsi was deposed. All but 147 were tried in absentia; only 16 were acquitted. The verdicts are subject to appeal and may still be overturned. Amnesty International called it the largest issuance of simultaneous death sentences in recent years anywhere in the world. "This is injustice writ large and these death sentences must be quashed. Imposing death sentences of this magnitude in a single case makes Egypt surpass most other countries’ use of capital punishment in a year," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy Middle East and North Africa program director at Amnesty. (AI, AP, BBC News, March 24)

A pending $1.5 billion in US aid to Egypt is being held up by legislative provisions that require the country’s interim government to hold free and fair elections. The House and Senate are considering a bill that will lift those restrictions. (Washington Free Beacon, March 24; Daily Beast, Jan. 13) Israel is meanwhile urging Washington to move ahead with the supply of 10 Apache combat helicopters to the Egyptian army, calling them crucial to Egypt's fight against jihadist organizations in the Sinai. (Haaretz, March 19)