Cairo Criminal Court sentenced on Sunday four defendants to death, six to 10 years strict imprisonment, and two to 15 years strict imprisonment in what is known as the Tanta cell case.
The defendants were facing charges of establishing an illegal group that aims to misrepresent the authorities, and assault the personal freedoms of citizens.
Death sentences in Egypt over the past three years have drawn widespread controversy.
The local independent movement, Against Death Sentences, called on civil society organisations and political parties to call for the suspension of death sentences for the next five years, in an official statement on Sunday.
The movement suggested this suspension should allow public discussion on the different aspects of death sentences.
“A death sentence is an irreversible verdict that strips away the lives of defendants even if it is proven later that they were not guilty,” the statement read.
According to the movement, this topic was not publicly discussed in Egypt before. The statement also stated that some countries had already abolished death sentences, like Algeria and Morocco.
Multiple local rights groups jointly organised a session on Saturday on the second anniversary of prominent lawyer Ahmed Seif’s death.
The groups, including Hesham Mubarak Center, El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, the Arab Network for Human Rights and Information (ANHRI), and the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), criticised the death sentence.
Nasser Amin, member of the National Council for Human Rights, said during the session that there are about 105 crimes in Egypt’s legislations that are subject to the death penalty, which he described as a “legislative disaster.
Amin also cited international treaties that stipulate preserving the right to life.
Meanwhile, Gamal Eid, director of ANHRI, also described death sentences in Egypt as a tool for political revenge, noting that countries around the world are increasing their efforts to abolish it.
The session also brought together families of people who were sentenced to death to share their testimonies.
Since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and the security chase of Muslim Brotherhood members, the number of death sentences in political cases increased. They included Brotherhood leaders, such as Morsi himself and former supreme guide Mohamed Badie.
In many cases, death penalties are given as the strictest sentence against defendants in absentia, who have the right to call for a re-trial upon showing up in court. Usually, the Cassation Court does not uphold the death penalty.
A few cases sparked controversy among human rights advocates. In May 2015, six convicts in the Arab Sharkas cell case were executed by the Egyptian authorities.
They were charged with, according to the military prosecution, killing a military officer in Cairo in March 2014, and murdering another six soldiers in the same month.
They also faced the charge of killing two high ranking officers during clashes with riot police. The defendants were denied appeals on their verdict.
Earlier in 2013, Mahmoud Ramadan, who was sentenced to death on charges of throwing a child off a rooftop in Alexandria, was executed on 7 March.