Egypt is set to amend its judicial laws to allow for faster verdicts and faster executions for death row inmates following the assassination of top prosecutor Hesham Barakat.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi attended Barakat’s funeral on Tuesday, where he addressed the media saying “The arm of justice is chained by the law. We’re not going to wait for this. We’re going to amend the law to allow us to implement justice as soon as possible.”
“If there is a death sentence, a death sentence shall be enforced,” he added.
According to the current judicial process in Egypt, a death sentence can only be enforced after lengthy appeals, which is a right of the defendants. This is intended to ensure a harsh verdict is implemented only after it is considered well deserved and totally proven.
Judicial sources have revealed key features of the changes scheduled to take place in the Criminal Procedure Code, which will be presented to the council of ministers during its meeting on Wednesday in preparation for submission to President Abdel Fattah el Sisi for ratification.
The most prominent three proposed adjustments are “the hearing of defense witnesses [will become] optional for the judge to decide and not mandatory,” verdicts issued from the “Supreme State Security court” will only need the president’s confirmation to be implemented, and finally, appeals - if undertaken - will only be allowed once over one stage with repeats forbidden.
Sisi also vowed to amend Egypt’s Criminal Procedure Code for the punishment of terrorists. Egypt has been without a parliament for two years and President Sisi is the only elected authority who can issue and amend laws.
Sisi claimed that “execution orders were issued from inside the cage” following the killing of Barakat bombing, a reference to the imprisoned leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood.
He also implied that deposed president Mohamed Morsi gave what he called “a death sign” from behind bars during a trial in which he was sentenced to life in prison for allegedly committing espionage for Qatar.
Sisi said in a televised speech, “Barakat was the voice of Egypt, terrorism wants to render us speechless, Egypt will never be silent,” he also promised “prompt justice” for Barakat’s family.
Over the past few months the death penalty and sentences of life imprisonment have been issued to hundreds of members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, including the leader of the organisation, Mohammed Badie. However, these decisions are preliminary and subject to appeal by judicial proceedings and it would usually take months or years until the issuance of final judgments against the convicted.
However, if the suggested amendments are implemented, executions of the convicted could take place significantly sooner.
Hesham Barakat was the judge who gave the green light for the dispersal of the Rabaa and Nahda camps, in which hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters died just weeks after Morsi was deposed.
A group called the "Giza Popular Resistance" claimed responsibility for the killing of Barakat in a Facebook post in which it said it “targeted the public prosecutor of the the coup judiciary, Hisham Barakat, during his movement in front of his home in the New Egypt neighbourhood as his car and other two cars were bombed.”
A 23-year-old man suspected of being involved in Monday’s attack was arrested on Tuesday, Egyptian security sources told Al Masry Al Youm. It has reportedly been confirmed the detained man belongs to the Giza Popular Resistance group.