Death sentence for a free Egypt

By Ameen Izzadeen
An Egyptian court on Monday sentenced to death 529 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood for killing one policeman. Although the ruling has been condemned worldwide, it underscores a reality in Egyptian politics: The Deep State runs the show. It has turned the Arab Spring into an Arab winter. It has hijacked democracy and uses it as a tool to sustain dictatorship. It has facilitated the return of the repressive regime with a new face.
The judiciary, along with the military, is part of this Deep State which apparently thinks that governance is too precious a thing to be left in the hands of democratically elected politicians, more so, in the hands of a bunch of Muslim fundamentalists. Members of the Deep State think that they are the custodians of the country and governance is their monopoly.
The trial in the southern city of Minya lasted less than two days. During the proceedings, the judge, whom the opposition describes as a lackey of the military, heaped insults at the defendants while defence lawyers were barred from the court.
The human rights group Amnesty International described the ruling as a grotesque example of the shortcomings and the selective nature of Egypt’s justice system. It also questioned why there were no efforts to check the military-backed regime’s excesses. The Amnesty statement said:
“This is injustice writ large and these death sentences must be quashed. Imposing death sentences of this magnitude in a single case makes Egypt surpass most other countries’ use of capital punishment in a year,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.
“This is the largest single batch of simultaneous death sentences we’ve seen in recent years, not just in Egypt but anywhere in the world.
“Egypt’s courts are quick to punish Mohamed Morsi’s supporters but ignore gross human rights violations by the security forces. While thousands of Morsi’s supporters languish in jail, there has not been an adequate investigation into the deaths of hundreds of protesters. Just one police officer is facing a prison sentence, for the deaths of 37 detainees.
“Without an independent and impartial process that can deliver truth and justice for all, many will question whether Egypt’s criminal justice system has indeed anything to do with justice.”
Yet the United States and the European Union expressed only deep concern and shock over the ruling, in statements that appeared perfunctory. Well, there was little surprise in their stance as they had no qualms about recognising the power grab in the Egypt last year or granting legitimacy to the military coup led by Field Marshal Abdel Fatteh el-Sisi.
The United States being a promoter of democracy says it will not back military coups. In fact, the United States has passed legislation not to assist military governments. But US presidents know how to circumvent the law and do the wrong thing legally, especially if the military backed regime serves the US interests. Augusto Pinochet’s Chile was a case in point. Like the Pinochet regime, the Egyptian junta kills people who take to the streets to protest over the manner in which the democratically elected government of Mohammed Morsi was removed. Thousands have been killed. Tens of thousands of dissidents, including teenage girls are being imprisoned under inhumane conditions. The teenage girls serve a 12-year jail term for taking part in anti-junta protests. Torture is rampant and there is little evidence that the due process is applied to political prisoners, whom the Egyptian regime describes as terrorists while a new law has made public protests illegal.
Yet the West continues to mollycoddle the regime saying that Egypt is going through a transition towards democracy.
The democracy the military regime tries to impose hardly differs from what existed under dictator Hosni Mubarak who was ousted in the 2011 Arab Spring revolution. During the Mubarak era, parliament voted for a presidential candidate. It had always been Mubarak versus a few weak candidates. The winner was then endorsed in a countrywide referendum and usually the result was a near-90 per cent endorsement of Mubarak.
Similarly, the Presidential election likely to be held within months has one strong candidate and a few weak candidates. The Deep State has seen to it that the Brotherhood, the only opposition party capable of posing a challenge to the strong candidate, military chief Sisi, is out of the way. The military backed regime has declared the Brotherhood a terrorist group. Even if the Brotherhood tries to reorganise itself under a different name, the Deep State will strike again and ban the group as had been case in Turkey in the 1980s and 1990s. Whenever the Turkish Islamists were seen to be popular among the masses, the Turkish Deep State got the military and the judiciary to ban the Islamists’ party. But the Islamists would reappear under a different name only to be banned by the Turkish courts again. This process went on until the AK Party or the Justice and Development Party of the present Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan, an Islamic-leaning politician, succeeded in checking the Deep State.
In fact, Erdogan, a strong supporter of the Brotherhood, advised the Egyptian Brotherhood on how to tame the Deep State. But Morsi did not take the advice seriously and eventually paid a heavy price.
Until such time the Brotherhood, which had the backing of some 35 per cent of Egyptian voters, turns wise like Erdogan, the Deep-State-defined democracy in Egypt will continue its persecution; for the Deep State serves the West and in the process kills dissidents, commits human rights violations and jails journalists. Among them are three Al-Jazeera journalists.
While the West turns a blind eye to the wrongs taking place in Egypt, the Egyptian masses are misled by one-sided propaganda slavishly carried out by an influential section of the Egyptian corporate media. They are told that the country needs a strong man to bring stability which in turn will bring economic prosperity. This strategy has worked and Sisi is being seen as the stabiliser.
Egypt’s Industry, Trade and Investment Minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour told Reuters recently: “In the West, a candidacy and maybe the election of an army officer or an ex-officer to the presidency of a developing, third world country would raise eyebrows and call to mind the image of a Pinochet rather than a George Washington… a dictator rather than a reformer. [But] this country as it stands today needs a strongman that can pull it together… Law and order is good toward investment and toward the economy.”
In other words, he appeared to say that Egypt in a strongman’s hand is good for capitalists. Ousted President Morsi was naïve not to understand what the capitalists’ requirements were. Morsi resisted the IMF’s economic aid package because he felt austerity measures which the IMF wanted to impose would make his government unpopular.
Earning the wrath of the Deep State and the West, the Morsi government looked east. It improved relations with China and Iran, showed solidarity with the Palestinian resistance group, Hamas, and scaled down ties with Israel. The Morsi government was seen as moving away from the West’s influence. The Morsi government also made mistakes in not taking into account the wishes of the liberals and the minorities. Without realising that he lacked power to confront the military, the judiciary and the liberals, Morsi wielded his stick, only to be dealt a knockout punch on the face. Now he and tens of thousands of his supporters are facing a fate that befell the 529 people on Monday.
Also alarmed by the Brotherhood’s rise to power were the ruling elite in the Gulf States. Apart from Qatar, the Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, saw the Morsi administration as a threat to their hold on power. They conspired with the West to get rid of him and financed and orchestrated the so-called second uprising. Recently, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar following the rift over Qatar’s support for the Brotherhood.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE have bolstered the post-Morsi authoritarian regime with 12 billion dollars. These countries and the West want Sisi to consolidate his power. When on Wednesday Sisi announced he would be quitting his military post to contest the elections, stock market indices shot up, signalling the capitalist world’s endorsement of his candidacy. He announced his candidacy only after strengthening the role of the army in politics. According to Sisi reforms, the defence minister, who is the Army chief, will be the head of the newly formed Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, not the President. The creation of this all powerful military body indicates that whoever comes to power, the Army will run a parallel government. Egypt’s military is armed, trained and funded by the US. Sisi is also a US-trained General. It was a strange coincidence that he was in the US when Mubarak was being thrown out.
The billions of dollars of military aid the US has been giving Egypt since the 1979 Camp David accord goes directly to the Army, bypassing any civilian authority. All this indicates that the so-called civilian government to be set up after the presidential election within months will be beholden to Washington as the Mubarak regime had been for 30 years. By closing down Hamas offices in Cairo, cracking down on Hamas activists and closing down Hamas’s secret tunnels through which the Palestinians smuggled in essentials such as medicine, the military backed government in Egypt has already shown that it is indeed a puppet of the West and Israel.
(This column first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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About ameenizzadeen

journalist and global justice activist
This entry was posted in Political analysis and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Death sentence for a free Egypt

  1. Tariq Al-Basha says:

    I think Sisi is using these 529 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood as Mubarak did in the beginning of his reign. He will release some of them when he gets elected as a president in exchange of some security and stability in certain areas.

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