The mother of detainees: Egypt's death row inmates

The mother of detainees: Egypt's death row inmates
Feature: Many accused 'dissidents' have been sentenced to death in Egypt. Some, like Samia Shanan, say they only 'confessed' under duress and torture.
4 min read
14 March, 2015
Relatives of Morsi supporters sentenced to death weep after announcement [AFP]
Samia Shanan, 54, used to sell fruits and vegetables in Kerdasa market in Giza. Dubbed "the mother of detained women" and "the mother of liberals", she is facing the death sentence along with 188 others. They are accused of killing police officers at Kerdasa's main police station on 14 August 2013.

Samia is the longest serving prisoner after Rasha and Hind Munir, both sentenced to life. She has served 439 days of her sentence so far.

She will be executed at the end of March if the Court of Cassation does not accept her request to have the sentence against her re-examined.

The police arrested Samia on 19 September 2013 to pressure her son Tarek to turn himself over to the authorities. Tarek is facing the same charges, although he was not in Kerdasa when the incident happened.

However, Samia turned from being a bargaining chip to accused along with her son of murdering the policemen. Security sources first said the incident was a criminal offense triggered by family revenge. Later authorities accused those opposing the military coup in Egypt of carrying out the incident.

     Samia turned from being a bargaining chip to being accused along with her son of murdering the policemen.

A total of 11 police officers were killed in August 2013 when the main police station in Kerdasa, a town 14 km from Cairo, was hit by rocket-propelled grenades and torched by masked assailants. The officers were reported to have been tortured to death and some of their bodies were said to have been mutilated. The attack came after Egyptian security forces had stormed Kerdasa many times, arbitrarily arresting locals.

"The security forces stormed our house looking for my eldest brother, Tarek. But when they did not find him, they arrested his mother and brother, and beat his ten year-old son Mohammad," Samia's son Osama said.

Replicating the execution of dissident Mahmoud Ramadan last Saturday, Egyptian judicial authorities will use video footage showing Samia admitting to crimes she says she never committed. She claims that she was tortured and that after her arrest, one of the soldiers put his shoes in her mouth. She was also threatened with rape in front of her youngest son if she did not admit to mutilating the body of the head of Kerdasa police station, according to relatives.

Samia says she only 'confessed' to wrongdoing after such torture, and has asked to be examined by a forensic expert to verify that it took place.

"Mama Samia was like our mother. Her smile brought joy to our hearts. Her two children were arrested and she was exposed to the worst kind of human rights violations. She is an old weary lady who cannot tolerate imprisonment," said Ayat Hamadah, a prisoner who was with Samia in jail.

Hamadah said she used to see her praying and crying every day before dawn. "I realised she was innocent and being treated unjustly," she added.

Shanan's case has drawn criticism from international human rights activists and agencies. Amnesty International has said the sentence was unfair and violated local and international law.

Egyptian women have faced a great deal of suffering since the 3 July events. A total of 90 women have been killed and over 3,000 arrested - 56 are still behind bars. Twenty out of 50 women were reportedly raped while in prison. In addition, 20 women have been referred to military trials and three others are missing.

The Egyptian Coordination of Rights and Freedoms said 1,080 death sentences have been issued against Egyptian dissidents since 3 July. On 19 March 2014, 26 defendants were sentenced to death in absentia accused of an attack on the Suez Canal.

Five days later, on 24 March, 529 people were sentenced to death for committing acts of violence in Minya Governorate. However, the verdict was overturned by the Court of Cassation, which ordered a retrial.

Ten Muslim Brotherhood members were also sentenced to death for cutting off a highway road in Qalyub, northern Cairo, in 2012.
     Amnesty International has said the sentence issued against her was unfair and violated local and international law.

On 6 August, the Giza Criminal Court sentenced 12 people to death by hanging, in a final sentencing, for killing a top police official during a security campaign in Kerdasa.

Later that month, 11 Muslim Brotherhood members were sentenced to death, including supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Badie, for the Giza Istiqamah Mosque case. They were accused of killing nine people, attempting to murder 21 others, inciting violence, terrorism and causing damage around the mosque.

On 7 December 2014, four Egyptians were sentenced to death in the "headquarter trial" case. Seven others received death sentences for committing the second Rafah events.

The recent mass death sentences against 183 defendants have sparked wide-scale international condemnation.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.