Egypt executes student tortured to confess attempted assassination of senior police officer

Moataz Hassan was reportedly forcibly disappeared and tortured before confessing to being involved in the explosion targeting a police officer in 2018

Egyptian authorities have carried out the death penalty against a university student after his conviction in the case of the assassination of a high-ranking police officer in Alexandria in 2018, a rights group said citing his family.

According to the Egyptian Network for Human Rights, the Egyptian Prisons Authority on Sunday executed Moataz Mustafa Hassan, a 27-year-old engineering student, inside the Cairo Appeal Prison. His body was transferred to the Zeinhom Morgue in preparation for handing it over to his family for burial.

Also, “We Record” independent human rights platform announced the execution on its official Twitter account:

On 14 June 2020, in a final judgment, the Emergency State Security Criminal Court, headed by Counselor Mohamed Sherine Fahmy, sentenced three defendants, including Hassan, to death by hanging, for their conviction in the case of the attempted assassination of the former Alexandria Governorate security director, Major General Mustafa Al-Nimr in March 2018.

An explosion targeting Nimr’s convoy in the Sidi Gaber area in Alexandria led to the killing of two of his guards, according to the interior ministry. The case involves 11 defendants, nine of them have been tried in absentia.

On 22 April, security forces stormed Hassan’s home in the King Mariout area in Alexandria, assaulted him and dragged him in the street in front of eyewitnesses. Then his mother and younger sister were detained and assaulted to pressure him to confess. 

According to the ENHR, the three were tortured inside one of the security headquarters in Alexandria. 

The group said that Hassan was forcibly disappeared for a period of two months until the Egyptian Ministry of Interior announced in a statement on 28 June 2018 his arrest, along with another defendant.

“Investigators threatened him that they would rape his mother and sister in front of him if he didn’t confess,” Ahmed Attar, executive director of ENHR, told Middle East Eye.

He explained that the prosecution held the investigation in the absence of Hassan’s lawyer, in violation of the constitution. 

“Throughout the trial, Hassan has provided evidence of the torture, with visible marks on his body, and his family lodged numerous complaints regarding his enforced disappearance, but all of that was disregarded by the judge,” Attar added. 

Spike in executions

The reports of the execution of Hassan have triggered angry reactions by Egyptian human rights advocates, who accused authorities of torturing him to record a video confession prior to his conviction. 

Some have shared his pictures, before and after his detention, showing apparent signs of torture. 

(Egypt today executed the student Moataz Mostafa Hassan, 25 years old! Moataz has been handed a final verdict on charges of the attempted assassination of the Alexandria security director. Below you can see pictures of Moataz before and after his detention. Perhaps you will realize why he made the confession against himself!)

Since the rise to power of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt following the overthrow of his predecessor Mohamed Morsi in 2013, the country has seen a wave of repression against political dissidents, sparking outrage from human rights organizations.

The widespread use of the death penalty has become a major focus for concern, as hundreds of people have been sentenced to death since 2013. So far, at least 51 men and women have been executed in 2021 alone. 

In 2020, the number of executions in Egypt tripled from the year before, making the country the third-most prolific executioner after China and Iran, according to Amnesty International.

Many of those executed have been described by rights groups as prisoners of conscience detained over their opposition to the Sisi government. 

According to the Geneva-based Committee for Justice rights group, at least 92 Sisi opponents have been executed since 2013, and final death sentences have been issued for 64 others who may be executed at any moment. 

Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized the process by which death penalties are handed to defendants.

Torture is commonplace in Egyptian prisons, and many confessions extracted under torture end up used as the main basis for prosecution.

Death sentences are often handed down following mass trials lasting just days.