CAIRO, (Reuters) – The New York group Human Rights Watch called on Wednesday for the retrial of three Egyptians sentenced to death on charges of taking part in bombings near the Sinai town of Taba in October 2004.
“Serious allegations of torture and forced confessions, as well as prolonged incommunicado detention and lack of consultation with counsel, raise significant doubts about the fairness of the trial,” the group, which monitored the trial, said in a statement.
“If President (Hosni) Mubarak is going to convince Egyptians that these men are truly guilty of the terrible attacks in Taba, he should insist they get a new trial that complies with basic standards of due process,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement.
All the defendants in the trial, including 10 others who received lesser sentences, said they made false confessions under torture and had nothing to do with the three bombings, which killed about 34 people.
The Egyptian Interior Ministry says it follows up allegations of torture and some police officers have been convicted of abuses. But the ministry routinely says it has no information about specific complaints.
Human Rights Watch said two of the three men were denied medical examinations until eight or nine months after torture allegedly took place during incommunicado detention.
None of them saw a lawyer until the earliest stage of their trials, and some had no opportunity at all to talk with their lawyers in private, it added. “The court … was not troubled that (one of the men sentenced to death) confessed to having used a different kind of bomb, in a different place, and using a different car than investigators at the crime scene had concluded had been used and placed,” it said.
The Egyptian authorities said the men were members of a group called One God and Jihad, but none of the defendants provided any information in court about such a group.
The trial took place in a state security court, where there is no appeal against the verdicts. However, Mubarak can order a retrial or change the verdicts.
The Taba bombings were the first of a series of three which killed more than 100 people at tourist resorts on the Gulf of Aqaba and southern Sinai. The last bombing was in April.