Human Rights defenders say 'grossly unfair trials' have become the norm since the 2013 military coup against a democratically-elected government.

In this Aug. 22, 2015 file photo, a Muslim Brotherhood member waves his hand from a defendants cage in a courtroom in Torah prison, southern Cairo, Egypt. On Wednesday, May 22, 2019, an Egyptian court referred the case of six alleged Muslim Brotherhood members held on terrorism charges to Egypt’s top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, for a non-binding opinion on their execution.
In this Aug. 22, 2015 file photo, a Muslim Brotherhood member waves his hand from a defendants cage in a courtroom in Torah prison, southern Cairo, Egypt. On Wednesday, May 22, 2019, an Egyptian court referred the case of six alleged Muslim Brotherhood members held on terrorism charges to Egypt’s top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, for a non-binding opinion on their execution. (AP)

Egyptian authorities have executed 49 people in the last 10 days, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday, urging the government to halt the executions and review the death sentences. 

Calling the court trials "grossly unfair, " the HRW said 15 men were convicted for alleged involvement in three cases of political violence, while two women and 32 men were convicted in criminal cases between October 3 and 13 this year. They all were among those executed in the last 10 days, the organisation said. 

Thirteen of the executed men, who were charged with political violence, were held in Cairo’s notorious Scorpion Prison.

The executions followed a suspicious incident in Scorpion Prison where four prisoners allegedly killed four security personnel. In return, the Interior Ministry forces killed all four prisoners while they were said to attempt an escape.

“Egypt’s mass executions of scores of people in a matter of days is outrageous,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The systematic absence of fair trials in Egypt, especially in political cases, makes every death sentence a violation of the right to life.”

The names of the executed prisoners mostly remain a secret, even for the prisoner’s family but pro-government newspapers published the names of recently executed prisoners. On October 3, 6 and 7, 26 people have been executed in Alexandria, Cairo for crimes including mureder and rape. The names of 15 people executed on 3rd of October was disclosed by the independent Al-Shehab Center for Human Rights. The organisation said 68 civilians were still on death row in cases of political nature.

Egyptian Criminal Courts have sentenced hundreds of opponents to death since top army general Abdel Fattah el Sisi toppled Mohammed Morsi, the country’s first democratically-elected president, in a coup in 2013. He took over a year after. Security forces killed over 1,000 civilians who opposed the coup in a largely peaceful Rab’a sit -in. 

While Sisi defends the country’s judiciary, saying that it is independent, human rights organisations condemn its trials as “grossly unfair”. International observers have been accusing the Egyptian government of controlling the judiciary and using it as a tool of repression against its opponents. 

HRW says, under President Sisi, Egypt has become one of the top 10 countries for executions and death sentences. 

“Those arrested for alleged political violence frequently face a host of abuses including enforced disappearances, torture to extract confessions, and no access to lawyers,” said the report.

“The majority of those sentenced to death were convicted in military or terrorism court trials that do not meet fair trial standards. Authorities routinely add dozens, sometimes hundreds, of defendants to a case without justification.”