A judge in Minya, Egypt recently sentenced to death 529 supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. This is the largest mass trial in Egypt in decades. In just two court sessions the judge sentenced the 529 supporters for the murder of a single police officer and for attacking the police.
Mohamed Morsi was the fifth president of Egypt. He was the first democratically elected head of state in Egyptian history. Although his predecessors also held elections, these were generally marred by irregularities and allegations of rigging. As president, Morsi granted himself unlimited powers on the pretext that he would protect the nation from the old power structures. Protestors successfully removed him as President and brought him under criminal charges in late 2013.
Now, the defendants here were arrested last August during a wave of unrest in which supporters of the former president react violently to the clearance of a pro-Morsi sit-in in Cairo during which more than 900 people were killed. In addition to the murder, the 529 were accused of attempting to kill two other police officers and attacking a police station.
The death sentences are not final and appeals are likely; similar sentences have often been commuted in Egypt. But families of the accused and rights lawyers described the process as a miscarriage of justice. Many family members of the sentenced defendants are outraged and define this not as judicial sentence but blatant thuggery.
Mohamed Zaree, head of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), a prominent rights group, said: “This verdict is a disaster. To rule in the second session of a trial – it means the judge didn’t hear the defence or look at the evidence. Even someone from the second grade of the law faculty would never have issued this verdict – it goes against the basic principles of criminology.” The same court will try 683 more supporters on Tuesday – including the leader of the group, Mohamed Badie, and the head of its political wing, Saad al-Katatny.
It took only two days for this Court to determine the lives of 529 defendants. It seems as if the Judge walk into the courtroom with his mind already made up. I hope that the next 683 other supporters are given more than two days in criminal court to determine their guilt.
Comparing the sentencing systems used here in the US, how should the Egyptian Court determine the faith of the next 683 supporters? Does anyone believe that the Judge may have been biased towards the defendants because they were supporters of Morsi?