Most sentences are overturned at appeal and statistics on the number of executions carried out are hard to come by. Egypt doesn't publish official figures; newspapers and local media outlets close to the government are the most detailed source of information. Reuters reviewed media reports over a period of 10 years and interviewed Egyptian and international human rights researchers. Amnesty International shared its data. This reporting showed that at least 179 people were executed from 2014 to May 2019, up from 10 people in the previous six years.
Civilians in military courts
There was also an increase in the number of civilians tried in military courts, and the number of death sentences handed down by military judges. At least 33 civilians were executed following trials in military courts from 2015, Reuters reporting shows. That compares with none from 2008 to 2014.
Crimes for which capital punishment is being meted out have included forming a terrorist group, use of explosives and rape.
The deadly punishments are part of a wider crackdown against Islamists by the government of Sisi, a former general. Sisi became president in 2014, a year after the military ousted Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohammed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has since been banned and its members driven underground.
Tightening the screw
In the summer of 2015, Sisi declared that Egypt's criminal code wasn't fit for purpose. Egypt was facing terrorism, he said, and needed courts and laws capable of delivering justice swiftly. "We won't spend five or 10 years trying people who kill us. When a death sentence is issued, it shall be carried out," he said. "We will amend the laws."
In 2017, a further set of amendments gave courts the power to refuse to hear all or some witnesses for the defence and limited the defence's opportunities to appeal. Amnesty International said the changes were 'paving the way for mass death sentences and executions.'
Sisi's way of justice
In recent years, dozens of judges have been forced into retirement, moved from criminal courts and even put on trial. In April, the constitution was revised to give Sisi new powers over appointing judges and the public prosecutor.
"Sisi's way of dealing with the justice system reminds me of the godfather pulling the strings," said human rights activist Zaree. "This is what the justice system is like in Egypt."