FILE - A defendant is seen caged in a courtroom in Torah prison, southern Cairo, Egypt, Aug. 22, 2015. The U.N. has condemned the recent execution in Egypt of 20 men on alleged terrorist-related charges.
FILE - A defendant is seen caged in a courtroom in Torah prison, southern Cairo, Egypt, Aug. 22, 2015. The U.N. has condemned the recent execution in Egypt of 20 men on alleged terrorist-related charges.

CAIRO - Egypt on Wednesday executed nine suspected Muslim Brotherhood members convicted of involvement in the 2015 assassination of the country’s top prosecutor, security officials said.

The nine were found guilty of taking part in the bombing that killed Hisham Barakat, the first assassination of a senior official in Egypt in a quarter century. Barakat was also the most senior official killed since the military overthrew an elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media, said the families of the men were told to pick up their bodies from a Cairo morgue.

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A total of 15 people have been executed in Egypt since the start of the year. Three were hanged earlier this month for their involvement in the 2014 killing of a judge’s son in the Nile Delta town of Mansoura. Authorities executed another three for killing a police officer in Cairo in Sep. 2013. Rights groups decried the executions, saying the men were sentenced to death following torture and beatings to extract confessions.

Amnesty International on Tuesday called on Egypt to halt the latest executions, saying that some defendants said they were forcibly disappeared and confessed under torture.

“There is no doubt that those involved in deadly attacks must be prosecuted and held accountable for their actions, but executing prisoners or convicting people based on confessions extracted through torture is not justice,” said Amnesty’s Najia Bounaim.

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Egypt’s highest appeals court upheld the death sentences in November. It commuted six other death sentences to life in prison. Death sentences were also handed down in 2017 to 13 defendants tried in absentia. They will be eligible for a new trial if they surrender or are captured. Turkey deported one of the 13 last month.

The Muslim Brotherhood was Egypt’s best-organized opposition movement for decades and won a series of elections after an Arab Spring uprising in 2011 ended President Hosni Mubarak’s nearly three-decade rule.

But the Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected civilian prersident in 2012, proved divisive, and the military led by then-general Sissi removed him from power amid mass protests against his rule a year later.

Since then authorities have waged an extensive crackdown on Islamists and government opponents, arresting and detaining thousands and levelling harsh sentences against them. The Brotherhood has been banned and declared a terrorist group.

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Islamic militants have meanwhile stepped up attacks since Morsi’s 2013 overthrow. An Islamic State affiliate based in the northern Sinai Peninsula has repeatedly targeted security forces and the Christian minority. Another group, known as Hasm, which has targeted security forces, has been linked to the Brotherhood.

The assassination of Barakat recalled one of Egypt’s darkest chapters under Mubarak's autocratic rule, when Islamic militants and the state security apparatus engaged in retaliatory killings for nearly a decade starting in 1990. That year, the militants gunned down parliament speaker Rifaat el-Mahgoub in Cairo, the last assassination of a senior official. There were attempts against other ministers until the insurgency was crushed in the late 1990s.