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Egypt: American Citizen Sentenced to Life Imprisonment for Terrorism-Related Crimes

(Apr. 16, 2015) On April 11, 2015, the Criminal Court of Cairo found an American citizen of Egyptian descent, Mohamed Sultan, guilty of multiple offenses. The Court, headed by Chief Justice Mohamed Nagi Shihata, imposed the penalty of life imprisonment on Sultan after finding him guilty of the following crimes: 1) joining a terrorist organization; 2) organizing a terrorist cell; 3) inciting violence; 4) disturbing public order by spreading chaos; 5) planning to storm public facilities and police stations; and 6) planning to damage private property and places of worship. (Death Penalty to the Spiritual Guide of the Brotherhood and Life Imprisonment? to 37 Other Members of the Organization, AL-SHOROUK (Apr. 11, 2015) (in Arabic).)

Prior to sentencing him, the prosecutor charged Sultan with being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood organization, a group classified by the Egyptian government as a terrorist organization. Sultan’s father, who is a high-ranking member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was sentenced by the same court to the death penalty. Moreover, the prosecutor charged the younger Sultan with disseminating false information to foreign media, thereby harming Egypt’s image and national security. (Id.)

Response of Sultan’s Family to the Court Decision

Sultan and his family deny all the aforementioned charges made against him and also deny that he joined the Muslim Brotherhood. Sultan’s family argues that he traveled to Egypt while he was studying at Ohio State University after receiving news that his mother, who still lives in Egypt, had cancer. They also claim that he did not disseminate any false information to foreign media. According to the family, Sultan did not participate in the demonstrations held by the Muslim Brotherhood protesting the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi; however, he acted as a personal translator for foreign correspondents during those demonstrations. (Meredith Hoffman, Egyptian Court Sentences American Citizen Journalist to Life in Prison, VICE NEWS (Apr. 11, 2015).)

Sultan’s family demands the deportation of Sultan based on Law 140-2014. (The Son of a Member of the Muslim Brotherhood Organization Might Face the Same Destiny as Peter Greste, AL-TAHRIR (Apr. 14, 2015) (in Arabic).) Law 140-2014 grants the Egyptian government the legal authority to deport to their home countries foreigners who are convicted in Egyptian courts. The Law was applied in the case of Peter Greste, the Australian journalist who was convicted in 2014 of disseminating false information against Egypt and aiding a terrorist organization. (Law 140-2014, 46 (bis) AL JARIDDAH AL RASMYAH (Nov. 13, 2014) (in Arabic).)

Procedure to Appeal the Decision

Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, Sultan and his father have the right to file a petition with the Court of Cassation to repeal the decisions of the Criminal Court against them and order a retrial of their cases. If the Court of Cassation finds that there was a breach of law during the trial process or in the interpretation of the Criminal Code by the judges, it will void the previous sentence issued by the Cairo Court of Appeal (in this case, the Cairo Criminal Court). The Court of Cassation would then return the case to the Criminal Court for adjudication by a different panel of judges. (Code of Criminal Procedure (1937, as last amended by Law No. 95, 2003), art. 446, MOHAMOON.COM (in Arabic); see also George Sadek, Egypt: Criminal Court Gives Head of Muslim Brotherhood a Death Sentence, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Mar. 19, 2015).)


On May 31, 2015, the Egyptian authorities deported Mohamed Soltan, after he was sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment. ( Egypt Deports Mohamed Sultan to the United States After Renouncing His Egyptian Citizenship, AL JAZEERA (May 30, 2015) (in Arabic); Kareem Fahim, Mohamed Soltan, US Citizen Imprisoned in Egypt, is Released, New York Times (May 30, 2015).) The measure was an implementation of Law 140-2014, on the deportation of foreign criminals. Law 140-2014, which was issued by the current President, Abdu Al-Fatah Al-Sisi, in November 2014, authorizes the deportation of foreigners accused or convicted of a crime, whenever that action is dictated by the “higher interest” of the state. According to article 1 of the Law, the deportation process requires a request from the General Prosecutor and approval by the Cabinet. ( Law 140-2014, 46 (bis). AL JARIDDAH AL RASMYAH (Nov. 13, 2014) (in Arabic).)