Sisi attended the funeral of Barakat, who oversaw the prosecution of thousands of activists and opposition leaders [AP]
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 itseconomy.
Egypt’s Karnak Temple, Luxor
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 andRaissa Kasolowsky)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has announced he is renaming Rabaa Square after the recently assassinated Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat.
At least 800 Muslim Brotherhood supporters were killed by the military in the square after the army seized power in 2013.
Sisi also said he would push for new laws as part of a crackdown that would deliver “swift justice” against armed groups, following the prosecutor general’s killing on Monday.
Speaking at the funeral of Barakat, who oversaw the prosecution of thousands of activists and opposition leaders, Sisi said on Tuesday that “the hands of justice are chained” in the face of “terrorism”.
“We will not wait. Within days, criminal laws that can help face new developments such as terrorism should be presented,” he said.
“We face terrorism and we need the right laws and courts to deal with it and to try the killers.”
In a thinly veiled reference to jailed leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sisi blamed the violence on those “issuing orders from behind bars,” and warned, “If there is a death sentence, it will be carried out.”
Report: Egypt increasingly cracking down on its youth
Sisi’s comments raise the prospect of an even tougher campaign against the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, and other opponents, after a two-year-old crackdown that has already seen courts issuing mass death sentences against the opposition, including ousted President Mohamed Morsi.
Human rights groups already say judges are ignoring due process and accuse police of greater abuses.
On Tuesday, an Amnesty International report said that Egypt has swung from “mass protest to mass incarceration”.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Abdullah Al Arian, an assistant professor at Georgetown University, said that Sisi’s decision would only lead to a “a far worse, and far more violent” confrontation with the opposition.
“This is not any responsible state should ever behave once it is subjected to these kinds of attacks,” he said, calling on Sisi to reach a “political settlement” with the opposition.
Breach in security
The high-profile assassination of Barakat, in an upscale Cairo neighbourhood, is a major embarrassment to Sisi, who vowed to bring stability to the country when he came to power, following the overthrow of Morsi in 2013.
The July 3 ousting came after mass protests against Morsi that began two years ago on Tuesday.
The Brotherhood has been declared a terrorist group and accused of fueling an insurgency by armed groups who have stepped up a campaign of violence.
The Brotherhood denies the claim, accusing the government of trying to justify its crackdown on the group.
On Monday, the Brotherhood condemned the killing of Barakat as “unacceptable,” adding that Sisi’s government is “fully responsible” for the violence in the country.
Morsi and several other top Brotherhood leaders have been sentenced to death but they still can appeal the sentences.
At Barakat’s funeral, Sisi led a procession of hundreds of state officials and military personnel who walked in unison as wreaths were laid.
Pro-government media hailed Barakat as a “hero” and “martyr.”
Meanwhile, violence continued even as Egypt buried Barakat.
In the northern Sinai city of Sheikh Zuweyid, a mortar shell fired at an army position fell on a private residence, killing two children and wounding three others, family members said.
In the city of Beni Suef, along the Nile River south of Cairo, security officials said gunmen opened fire on a police car, killing a sergeant and wounding four others.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies