Morsi Sentence Is A Travesty Of Justice And A Tragedy For Egypt

Abdel Bari Atwan

I will admit that I was surprised by yesterday’s verdict against Egypt’s first legitimately elected leader, Mohamad Morsi. The court found him guilty of inciting his supporters to use violence against opposition supporters in 2012 demonstrations outside the Presidential Palace that resulted in several deaths. Morsi was given a 20 year prison sentence and faces two further trials.

The Egyptian authorities acquitted Morsi and fourteen co-defendants of murder, which would have carried the death penalty. Hundreds of Moslem Brotherhood supporters and leaders have received the death penalty, however, including Mr. Mohammed Badie, the movement’s Supreme Guide.

Yesterday’s events in a crowded court convened in the Police Academy were in marked contrast to last November’s acquittal of former President Hosni Mubarak. All charges were dropped against the dictator who had been accused of complicity in the deaths of almost 1000 people during the Arab Spring uprising.

Egypt’s judiciary system can no longer claim to have any semblance of political independence; it has become a mockery of justice, dispensing the death sentence like parking tickets. Two days ago 22 people were sentenced to death for storming a police station outside Cairo during the fight to keep Morsi from being toppled; one police officer was killed during the attack on 3 July 2013.

Speaking about the Morsi verdict, Amnesty International’s MENA director, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said, ‘this verdict shatters any remaining illusion of independence and impartiality in Egypt’s criminal justice system… convicting Mohamad Morsi despite fundamental flaws in the legal process and what seems to be at best flimsy evidence produced in court under a gag order, utterly undermines this verdict.’

President Morsi appeared in court dressed in a blue and white prison uniform jumpsuit. Clearly designed to humiliate the man and his co-defendants who jumped up and shouted when the verdict was pronounced but their words could not be heard because the court had installed thick, soundproof glass around the box after Morsi declared himself rightful President in previous hearings.

An appeal is expected, which will be led by a British legal team advising Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party. Tayab Ali of London’s ITN solicitors described the trial as a ‘show trial’ based on ’fabricated evidence’.

Morsi faces two further trials in May – one for escaping from prison, the other for espionage and ‘conspiring to commit terrorism’. The latter potentially carries the death sentence but I hope I am correct in surmising that the al-Sisi government would not risk the wrath of the international community with such a travesty of justice.

***
A month before the military coup in July 2013 I went to Cairo and had an hour-long meeting with President Mohamed Morsi. He spoke about religious and social tolerance, and about the need to stand with the poor and destitute; he was full of plans to beef up the country’s military establishment and boost development in all fields, agriculture in particular, and to achieve self-sufficiency in foodstuffs such as wheat. He was very outspoken about the need to wean Middle Eastern countries off their dependence on the US which he described as a covert form of oppression.

I am not a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and it is true that Morsi’s failings as a leader were many, but he had only just taken the reins of power and held them for less than a year before they were wrenched from his hands.  It seems that there was an active conspiracy against the Morsi government from the outset producing incessant protests and demonstrations and throwing all sorts of obstacles in the way of the fledgling government. This conspiracy swiftly succeeded in removing the  President and putting him behind bars.

I know that this opinion will not please many both inside and outside Egypt, but we do not write in order to satisfy this or that party, but rather to discover and narrate the truth. We fear for Egypt when an elected leader can be put behind bars, tried on trumped-up charges and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. What sort of a country is that? Is this the modern, democratic new era for Egypt that hundreds sacrificed their lives for?

***
It is difficult to see how recent events can pave the way for stability and economic recovery in Egypt; instead, the democratic deficit is leading to a worsening crisis with the absence of an independent judiciary and the failure to achieve national reconciliation and peaceful co-existence between political and religious parties.

These glaring failures lead to further, more dangerous problems because they spawn violence and terrorism; extremist tendencies such as Islamic State and al-Qaeda thrive on instability and discontent which also facilitate recruitment from among the frustrated youth who face nothing but unemployment and lack of opportunity.

 We are not prepared to sit silently and refrain from commenting on a farcical situation which sees the ‘good’ ex-President Mubarak and sons cleared of all charges – despite being stained with blood and corruption as the whole world knows – while the ‘bad’ ex-President Morsi languishes behind bars.

We have every right to worry about Egypt and her future, and we say loudly that today’s misdeeds are not worthy of the big-hearted, compassionate, noble Egypt that we know and love.

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  1. They have arrested the Revolution, muzzled all revolutionary Drives and converted Egypt to a mixed up Saudi’s Protectorate.
    Egypt is plagued by those little Generals who are out of History and soon will be out of Role too.
    Also, the Brotherhood’s fatal Errors during their Reign have brought about this catastrophic Reign of the Military.
    The persecuted Man of Egypt is paying all the Costs ?
    No one is standing up in his defence ?

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