When the Egyptian authorities announced their intention to broadcast the proceedings of the trial of deposed President Mohammed Morsi live on television, I was glued to the screen with curiosity and professional interest. It was shocking, in every sense of the word.
There was no real court in terms of deliberations and defence arguments. Moreover, there was no live broadcast, just brief recorded footage. We saw Morsi and his colleagues standing in a glass-screened dock wearing their prison whites and prohibited from speaking. When the ousted president spoke, he only said a few words because the judge controlled the sound, so he resorted to sign language.
I am upset by such treatment of an elected president of the republic, especially a president of Egypt, which has a deep-rooted history and witnessed one of the most important popular revolutions in modern history; a revolution for justice, human rights, democratic values in a fair and independent judiciary, and freedom of expression.
I compared the trial of President Morsi to the trial of another Arab leader, Saddam Hussein. There's a vast difference between the two, not only in the proceedings, results and verdicts, but also in the circumstances of both trials, the nature of the charges and, above all, the way the treatment of the defendants.
Saddam Hussein and his companions all stood in one dock and throughout the trial, which lasted for several hours a day for months on end, the late president wore civilian clothes and was at the height of his sophistication. He stood amongst his assistants and companions and I still remember his famous black coat. He spent the whole time only two metres from the judge, the prosecutor and his aides.
The dock was not closed nor was it made out of glass. Moreover, the judges gave the Iraqi president and his companions the full right and absolute freedom to defend themselves, to refute the charges made against them and to criticise the judges and question their credibility and integrity. There was no disruption on live television watched by the whole world, not only the people of Iraq.
I am not praising the Iraqi court that stemmed from the unjust US occupation that claimed the lives of over a million Iraqis, orphaned more than four million children, destroyed a dear and generous country, looted its riches and caused sectarian division. I am only making a comparison between a court in an occupied country and another court in a supposedly independent state that witnessed a popular uprising demanding justice, human rights and freedoms.
President Morsi was deposed and then arrested, not because he committed crimes worthy of prosecution and punishment but because, according to his jailers, he failed in government. Despite the fact that his rule only lasted a year and was full of strikes, demonstrations and media campaigns to discredit him, he faces political charges. If he was a criminal, as his accusers claim, why was he allowed to run for president and win the elections?
Furthermore, the charges against Morsi are not at all convincing. The man did not kill, steal or shut down any television stations or newspapers. Instead, it was he who suffered at the hands of the ugliest defamatory and insulting media campaigns which sometime invaded his privacy. He was also subjected to the fabrication of offensive stories about him. Even if he wanted to steal or do evil, he wasn't given enough time to do so.
President Morsi was clear when he declared the invalidity of the court and stressed that he was overthrown by a military coup involving the Defence Minister Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi; this is the truth. He was also right when he protested that the judge was addressing him too informally ("Tell me, Morsi"); he responded politely, "I am Dr Mohamed Morsi, President of the Republic, and not the defendant Mohamed Morsi." Judges must follow correct etiquette in such matters and address people by their titles because it is considered to be one of the values of integrity and impartiality, and it is central to the nature of Egyptians to have good manners.
What are the charges against President Morsi? Escaping from a prison abandoned by its guards, and conspiring with Hamas, the Arab nation's "arch-enemy" and the occupier of the holy sites in the occupied Palestinian territories?
I disagree with President Morsi on some issues, because he has made some mistakes, either due to a lack of experience or weakness and ignorance in the matters of management and governance. I would have liked to see more "flexibility" and "coexistence" from his presidency, such as that which we see in Tunisia. However, that does not mean that we can insult the man and his comrades in this way and treat them and their supporters, who have been victims of oppression and exclusion, like criminals. It is enough to point out the murder of 50 innocent protesters only two days ago on the third anniversary of the revolution; who will be tried for their murder?
Egypt's elected and deposed president deserves better treatment matching Egypt's greatness, its honourable revolution and its deep cultural heritage. It is painful that the trial, of which we saw snippets, does not reflect any of this at all.
This is a translation of the Arabic text published by Raialyoum on January 29, 2014
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.