June 30, 2015 / 2:45 PM / 2 years ago

Egypt's Sisi promises tougher legal system as prosecutor buried

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt’s president told mourners on Tuesday at the funeral of the country’s top prosecutor, killed by a car bomb, that he would unveil tough new security policies in the coming days, vowing that death sentences would be carried out.

Policemen investigate the site of a car bomb attack on the convoy of Egyptian public prosecutor Hisham Barakat near his house at Heliopolis district in Cairo, June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Monday’s killing of public prosecutor Hisham Barakat, the most senior Egyptian official to die in such an attack in years, cast doubt on Egypt’s ability to contain an Islamist insurgency that is picking increasingly high-profile targets.

In his address at the funeral, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said: “The hand of justice is tied by laws ... We will not wait for that. 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 the overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July 2013 by the army, then under Sisi’s leadership.

Since then, Egyptian courts have handed down preliminary death sentences to hundreds of alleged members of the now banned Muslim Brotherhood. Mursi also faces the death penalty.

Sisi did not give details of his plans for the legal changes 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.

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.

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

Militant attacks that have killed hundreds of soldiers and police -- focused mainly in the North Sinai region but also extending to Egypt’s main cities -- have increased since Mursi’s toppling.

In June, a suicide bomber blew himself up near the ancient Karnak Temple in the city of Luxor, a major attraction in Egypt where tourism is economically vital.

On Tuesday, at least three people were killed and others wounded when explosives went off in a car near a police station in Cairo’s western suburb of 6th of October City, security sources said.

A policeman was killed in the southern Cairo district of Helwan in a gunfight with militants, a security source told the state news agency MENA.

Judicial sources told Reuters that new policies alluded to by Sisi may restrict the number of appeals available to people convicted of certain crimes to one from two, and judges may be granted final say on which witnesses can testify.

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

Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy, Ahmed Hassan and Ali Abdelaty; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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