04/29/2014 07:42 am ET Updated Jun 29, 2014

Egyptian Mass Death Sentence Condemned By United Nations Official


GENEVA, April 29 (Reuters) - The top United Nations human rights official on Tuesday condemned Egypt's sentencing of 683 people to death, saying that the mass trial had clearly breached international law requiring due process.

An Egyptian court sentenced the leader of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and 682 supporters to death on Monday, intensifying a crackdown on the movement that could trigger protests and political violence before an election next month.

"It is outrageous that for the second time in two months, the Sixth Chamber of the Criminal Court in Al-Minya has imposed the death sentence on huge groups of defendants after perfunctory trials," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement.

International guarantees of a fair trial "appear to be increasingly trampled upon" in Egypt, Pillay said, noting that 529 people were sentenced to death by the same court in March.

U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a news briefing: "It is clearly and absolutely not considered to be a fair trial. Most of the defendants were tried in absentia, most of them did not have access to lawyers, apparently the defence did not have an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses. These are very, very basic fair trial guarantees." (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Angus MacSwan)