Wednesday,15 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1203, (26 June - 2 July 2014)
Wednesday,15 August, 2018
Issue 1203, (26 June - 2 July 2014)

Ahram Weekly

MB’s last ditch tactics

The Muslim Brotherhood’s latest attempts to win sympathy highlight the desperate straits in which the group finds itself. Amany Maged reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat has moved to appeal 183 death sentences issued by a Minya Criminal Court before the Court of Cassation. The defendants, who faced charges including premeditated murder, threatening and using violence against police officers and conscripts, arson, facilitating the escape of 58 detainees and amassing weapons and material to carry out terrorist acts, include Essam Al-Arian, Mohamed Al-Beltagui, Bassem Ouda and Safwat Hegazi, senior leaders of  the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), and the group’s Supreme Guide, Mohamed Badie. The charges relate to attacks on the police station in the village of Al-Adwa, during which two people were murdered, and on Matay police station, where the deputy chief of police was killed.

Reactions to the verdict varied. They were welcomed in some quarters as evidence that justice is being done, and condemned in others. Among the critics of the court proceedings and sentencing is former minister of justice before the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, Ahmed Mekki. “The succession of death sentences being issued in Egypt has tarnished the reputation that the judiciary built up over decades,” Mekki said in a press statement. He noted that in 1937 the Egyptian judiciary was sufficiently impartial that the Montreux Convention abolished the mixed court system, testimony of the West’s confidence “in the Egyptian judiciary’s ability to protect their rights”.

Though Mekki doubted the death sentences would be carried out he cautioned against the harmful effects of more verdicts. “People might be able to tolerate hunger and poverty. What they cannot tolerate the loss of hope in their ability to obtain their rights through the courts,” he said.

Muslim Brotherhood defendants who have been found guilty by the Minya Criminal Court have the right to appeal, says Lotfi Hassanein of the Cairo Appeals Court. The Minya Court is a court of first instance and defendants may file for appeal the moment the court files the verdict documents. For those defendants sentenced to death in absentia, the moment they turn themselves in, the sentence is nullified and the trial reopens.

There were concerned reactions abroad. The number of death sentences being issued by Egyptian courts is worrisome, said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham, and conflicted with Egypt’s long history of tolerance and lenience. “The achievements of the Egyptian revolution concern all the people of Egypt, from across the political and social strata. It is crucial in this delicate phase for national unity to be framed on the basis of the political will to progress in establishing democracy,” she added.

In the face of the death sentences — whatever the ultimate fate of the defendants —the Muslim Brotherhood has signalled its intention to continue staging demonstrations. The numbers of those taking part in such protests have steadily dropped in the face of an intense security clampdown and public hostility. Yet the group says it is planning “activities” to coincide with 3 July, the anniversary of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s declaration of the post 30 June roadmap. In an announcement it claimed 25 January revolutionaries would take part in the protests.

The Brotherhood is bent on provoking government agencies. They have climbed aboard the ‘Have you prayed for the Prophet Mohamed today?’ poster campaign. Posters have appeared in many public places, and the campaign is active on Facebook and other social networking sites. The Interior Ministry says the Muslim Brotherhood is behind the poster drive, which is being used to “foment strife”. No one has so-far claimed responsibility for the campaign.

In the face of the spreading campaign the Interior Ministry has cautioned citizens not to be deceived by rumours.

Some Muslim religious leaders agree with the Interior Ministry, in as much as they say the poster phenomenon is not entirely religious in its intent but also aims to defy the government. The campaign, say some commentators, target the Interior Ministry in particular and reflect Brotherhood determination to embarrass the state, if only through fly-posting.

Muslim Brotherhood defendants greeted their death sentences with smiles. Their insouciance, the “Have you prayed for the Prophet today?” campaign and announced preparations for 3 July are all ways of goading the Egyptian government. Abandoned by their international allies, side-lined by jihadists attempting to pressure the state through terrorist acts, the Brotherhood is perhaps hoping next week’s demonstrations, and possible executions, will win some public sympathy.

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