Sondos Asem: Only woman to be sentenced to death in Egypt mass trial

#EgyptTurmoil

The former international media coordinator for ousted president Morsi was charged with espionage and sentenced to death in absentia

A screenshot of Sondos Asem talking on the Al Jazeera Show Inside Story on Egypt's new constitution back in December 2012 (Al Jazeera)
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Last update: 
Sunday 17 May 2015 14:55 UTC
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Sondos Asem, a member of the Freedom and Justice Party, was one of the defendants sentenced to death in absentia by an Egyptian court on Saturday, and the only woman to receive the death penalty. 

She is one of the 16 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including leaders Mohamed al-Baltegy and Khairat al-Shater, to be sentenced to death after being charged for acts of espionage by conspiring with Palestinian movement Hamas.

The preliminary verdict was sent to the grand mufti for approval as is required with all death penalty sentences under Egyptian law. The final decision is expected to be announced on 2 June.

She was the former international media coordinator for Morsi’s office, and at a time where the Muslim Brotherhood’s dominance in the political arena was regarded with apprehension at an international level, she represented the group’s youthful voice of moderate political Islam.

The 28-year-old was also the senior editor for the English-language Muslim Brotherhood online website Ikhwan Web, and part of the group’s foreign relations committee.

In a 2011 interview with the New York Times, Asem spoke candidly of the problems that the Muslim Brotherhood would tackle, focusing on the economy instead of banning alcohol across the country.

“[Egyptians] want to reform their economic system and to have jobs. They want to eliminate corruption,” she said.

She also dismissed opinions that viewed the Muslim Brotherhood as being oppressive to women.

“It’s a big misconception that the Muslim Brotherhood marginalises women,” she said, adding that “50 percent of the Brotherhood are women”.

“We believe that a solution to women’s problems in Egyptian society is to solve the real causes, which are illiteracy, poverty and lack of education,” Asem continued.

In 2012, her mother Manal Abdul Hassan was among the female Muslim Brotherhood candidates who ran for parliament, although she was not successful. Her father is also a leading Muslim Brotherhood supporter who was in charge of publishing the group's educational materials like How to be a good Muslim father. 

The 28-year-old is currently studying at Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government. Asem, who studied English Literature as an undergraduate, received her Master’s degree in journalism and mass communication at the American University of Cairo, where she wrote on the impact that social media has as a reliable source of information for youth.