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Egypt executions 'unacceptable' says Erdogan

Turkish president says Egyptian executions justify his bitter relationship with Egypt's Sisi
Men executed by Egypt say they were tortured into signing confessions (Twitter)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the UN have both criticised a surge in executions in Egypt marked by the deaths of nine men last week. 

Erdogan said on Saturday that executions and the arrests of political opponents, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood that was ousted in a 2013 coup by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, explain why the Turkish president refuses to speak to Sisi. 

"They killed nine young people recently. This is not something we can accept," Erdogan said in an interview with Turkish TV channels CNN-Turk and Kanal D, referring to the men who were executed on Wednesday. 

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"Of course, we are going to be told that it is a decision of the judiciary, but there, justice, elections, all that, are codswallop. There is an authoritarian system, even totalitarian," he said, as quoted by AFP.

During the trial for the nine men accused of killing Egypt's former prosecutor general Hisham Barakat, several of the defendants claimed they had signed confessions after being tortured. 

"I was blindfolded, hung on the door upside down for seven consecutive hours and electrocuted in sensitive areas of my body," said 25-year-old Abulqasim Youssef.

Erdogan also called on Egypt to grant an amnesty to political prisoners arrested after the 2013 coup that overthrew former leader Mohammed Morsi, who had been a close ally of Erdogan's. 

Erdogan slammed Western countries which, according to him, "roll out the red carpet" for Sisi and turn a blind eye to the latest executions in Egypt.

The UN on Friday said that 15 people had been executed in Egypt in February alone and that there were concerns about whether the defendants had been given fair trials. 

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The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement that Egypt should suspend the death penalty and review all cases in which the sentence had been handed down.

Reacting to news of the executions, Maya Foa, director of Reprieve, a UK-based anti-death penalty rights group, said in a statement that the executions showed that the use of the death penalty by Egypt's president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi "is now a full-blown human rights crisis". 

"Executions have spiked - bringing the total number to 15 in just two weeks - amid widespread abuses including gross due process violations, torture, false confessions and the repeated use of mass trials," Foa said. "It is shocking that these abuses continue unabated while the international community remains silent."

On Tuesday, Amnesty International had urged Egyptian authorities to halt the executions that were handed down based on forced confessions 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 Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International’s North Africa campaigns director.

Egypt responded on Sunday, saying it rejected both the allegations that torture was used on the prisoners and "any infringement upon the Egyptian judiciary", according to Reuters.

Egyptian civil and military courts have sentenced more than 1,400 people to death since Sisi, who led the 2013 military coup, became president in 2014.