If there are still some outside Egypt who are secretly rooting for Al Sisi's management of the Muslim Brotherhood and the government of Egypt, today's death sentences meted on no less than 529 Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi supporters hopefully will shake them out of their sympathetic torpor.

Although Morsi did embark on a dangerous course when it changed the constitution and appointed Muslim Brotherhood members with dubious pasts, such as the mayor of Luxor, who had ties to the terrorist group that killed dozens of tourists in Luxor years ago, the backlash of the military coup is unprecedented and appalling.

A court in Northern Egypt has sentenced 529 Morsi supporters to death for the crime of killing a single police officer who perished during the initial riots when the military deposed the elected president.  All 529 defendants were apparently demonstrating in the streets during the time when the policeman was killed, although by no means proven to be directly connected to the killing. Furthermore, the charges stem from treason accusations, so that the killing of the policeman may be alien to the death sentence basis altogether. 

The fact that 900 people on both sides of the demonstrations died during the long period of unrest that followed the deposition of president Morsi, seems to have been completely disregarded by the court. 

Although the sentences are not final, and may in the end just be grandstanding, the fact remains that when all the appeals are vacated, many of the defendants could actually be re-sentenced to death. 

The problem however, is not just with the absurd imposition of such draconian sentences, but with the process itself. The sentencing session apparently lasted less than 5 minutes, in a a case that held 529 individuals, and came only in the second session of the trial.  Which translates to the fact that none of the 529 had proper recourse, otherwise such a swift process could not have occurred.

In fact some of the reporters in the court case and sentencing say that not only were the defendants' own lawyers not heard, but neither were the prosecution's. It also means that the evidence was not even looked at, not even for a minute.

What is worse, in one of the grossest violation of human rights observed in a while, 683 more supporters will be tried on Tuesday, with many expecting them to receive a similar death sentence, and just as swiftly.  

In other words, anyone remotely connected or present at a pro-Morsi party will see himself carted in front of a judge and swiftly condemned to death, or a similarly ludicrous sentence, without so much as a word uttered in his defense. 

Mohammad Badie, head of the Muslim Brotherhood, will be among the next batch of defendants next Tuesday. 

Since around 16,000 Morsi supporters were arrested in the past year, there is the all too real possibility that many will be just as unjustly tried.  

Human Rights activists have claimed that the figure is conservative, and assert that the evidence points to at least 23,000 imprisoned, many of whom have been brutally tortured by the military regime. 

Even if the Muslim Brotherhood supporters and members want to institute a strict Islamic Republic, and there is good evidence to support that suspicion, there is no reason why they should be dealt with in this way.  

Many people already lament at the possibility of horrible terrorism following the crackdown by the military and these kangaroo courts.  But to only concern ourselves with the possibility that retaliation to this oppression could be brutal  is incredibly short sighted and selfish.  

For those who value human rights, the death sentences meted today should be good and sufficient reason to sanction Egypt and demand that the people sentenced have proper recourse.  If the world stands by, it will have been accomplice to one of the greatest miscarriages of justice ever carried out. 

Even more absurd, was the release of one of the imprisoned members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Alaa Abd El Fath, who is considered one of the most secular members of the group.  This kind of clemency does not show the merciful disposition of the military regime, but instead sends a direct message that only people who are not committed to the Muslim Brotherhood's stricter agenda have any hope of being dealt with humanely. 

In the middle of all this judicial chaos and miscarriage of justice, four Al Jazeera journalists remain in prison after four months just for the fact that they, according to the Egyptian military, served to incite unrest by reporting on the riots and having a pro-Brotherhood slant.  For these four journalist too there is no recourse. Repeated attempts from foreign entities to ask that they be released or at least to be afforded legal recourse have been completely ignored. 

Interestingly enough, the sentences against the 529 came in a part of Egypt where Islamists have a majority of sympathizers among the citizenry, signifying the military's intent to scare the supporters from further unrest or support for that matter in their own backyard, something that historically has always backfired, or at least been ineffective.

But the cautionary tale of the current events, is that Egypt is ignoring the change that has been wrought by decades of military rule and intolerance.  From the times of Nasser, repression of the Brotherhood, especially of those members who are more secular, has caused the very unrest and transition that could be the harbinger of even worse civil strife and violence. 

But those considerations seem to be alien to the military's plan to govern Egypt. There is too much at stake, financially and otherwise for them to relinquish absolute power.  

Today's fervent endorsement of Al Sisi for the presidency by the Coptic church leader is a reminder of how frail balances are in Egypt now and will be in the future. If the only way the Coptic church thinks it has to protect itself from terrorist activity -which it suffered greatly from during the unrest - is to prop up a military regime, then it will be fair to assume that Egypt's future will be anything but tranquil or democratic.


Partial Source : The Guardian/LaTimes/NBC : 3.24.14

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