Egypt's Sisi promises tougher legal system at prosecutor's funeral

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 30, 2015 10:44 AM

By Stephen Kalin

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Tuesday attended the funeral of Egypt's top public prosecutor killed by a car bomb on the previous day, and said he would within days reveal legal reforms that would allow a tougher line against militants.

Public prosecutor Hisham Barakat was the most senior Egyptian official to be killed in years, and Monday's attack has cast doubt on Egypt's ability to contain an Islamist insurgency that is picking increasingly high-profile targets.

Earlier this month, a suicide bomber blew himself up near the ancient Egyptian Karnak Temple in the southern city of Luxor, a major attraction in Egypt where tourism is vital to its economy.

Sisi led the procession at Barakat's military funeral held at a mosque on the outskirts of Cairo. At a ceremony attended by senior government and religious officials and members of Barakat's family, Sisi said the militant threat in Egypt demanded urgent legal reforms.

"The hand of justice is tied by laws... We will not wait for that", he said in comments broadcast on state television.

"We will not sit for five or 10 years putting on trial the people who kill us."

The funeral fell on the second anniversary of the start of mass protests that preceded Islamist president Mohamed Mursi's overthrow in July 2013 by the army, then under Sisi's leadership.

Militant attacks focused mainly in the North Sinai region that have killed hundreds of soldiers and police have increased since Mursi's toppling.

MASS DEATH SENTENCES

In his address at the funeral, Sisi did not give details of his plans for legal reforms but said they would be unveiled "within days".

"A death sentence will be issued, a death sentence will be implemented. A life sentence will be issued, a life sentence will be implemented," he said.

Since the army toppled Mursi and banned the Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian courts have handed down preliminary death sentences to hundreds of alleged Brotherhood supporters. Mursi also faces the death penalty.

The government also expanded the jurisdiction of military courts to try civilians accused of acts of terrorism, part of a crackdown that first targeted Islamists but has expanded to include liberal activists.

Western governments have criticized the mass death sentences but are unlikely to take strong measures against Egypt, seen as a vital partner for security in a region beset by turmoil.

Judicial sources told Reuters any amendments could also restrict the number of appeals to one from two and give judges final say on which witnesses could testify.

Some of Egypt's judges have drawn accusations of blatant bias in trials against Islamists, but the judiciary says it is independent of the government and military.

(Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy and Ahmed Hassan; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Raissa Kasolowsky)