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Egyptian Rights Groups Denounce Execution of 15 Militants

Seven Egyptian rights groups have condemned the execution of 15 suspected Islamic militants convicted of staging a deadly attack on an army checkpoint four years ago in the Sinai Peninsula.

In a late Tuesday statement, the groups said legal procedures against the men were flawed and at least one of the 15 appears to have been tortured in detention. They also said relatives were not allowed to see them on the day of their execution, as the law requires.

Tuesday's hangings in two prisons near Cairo were the largest known number of executions on a single day since the insurgency in Sinai escalated following the 2013 military overthrow of a freely elected president, the Islamist Mohammed Morsi, whose one-year rule proved divisive.

A military tribunal convicted the 15 of taking part in an August 15, 2013 attack against an army checkpoint that killed an officer and eight conscripts. The attack took place a day after security forces broke up two mass sit-ins in Cairo by Morsi supporters, killing at least 600 people.

The case against the alleged perpetrators of the checkpoint attack involved 19 defendants. Three were acquitted, and a minor was sentenced to five years in jail.

Six militants were hanged in a separate terror case in 2015 after being convicted by a military tribunal. Rights groups at the time contended that the legal process against them was also flawed.

The seven rights groups said the latest executions showcased a legislative trend to expand the jurisdiction of military courts and the "political use" of capital punishment.

"The signatories call for limiting the jurisdiction of military tribunals over civilians and the immediate suspension of capital punishment," said the statement.

The groups include the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Nadim Center Against Violence and Torture, and the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms.

Tuesday's executions came a month after the deadliest attack by militants against civilians in Egypt's modern history, in which 311 worshippers were killed inside a mosque in northern Sinai. Last week, militants targeted the airport in el-Arish, northern Sinai's largest city, with a guided rocket when the defense and interior ministers were visiting. The ministers were not harmed, but the rocket damaged a helicopter, killing at least one senior officer and wounding two others.