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What’s really behind Morsi’s guilty verdict?

April 21, 2015 at 2:09 pm

Ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was sentenced to 20 years in jail today. Taking his age into consideration, he’s 63, and the fact that the average life expectance in Egypt is 71, this sentence is not only a covert life sentence, but also a slower and more painful alternative to a death sentence. Many of the English news outlets that reported the sentencing said that he was sentenced to 20 years for killing protestors, possibly as a result of facts being lost in translation. The verdict was actually that he incited “violent intimidation” during the riots outside the Ittihadiya Presidential Palace in 2012, a term that doesn’t have a legal definition in Arabic or in English.

When examining the case, not only do many contradictions arise, but it becomes more apparent that Morsi’s sentence was unfair and hypocritical.

Firstly, the 2012 riot that killed two people according to the Egyptian court actually killed 10. Eight Muslim Brotherhood supporters were killed during the riots.

The protests were held as a result of the formation of the constitution, which led to a few dozen anti-Morsi protestors holding a sit-in outside the palace. On 5 December, this sit-in was intercepted by Morsi supporters; creating a conflict. The conflict escalated on both sides and the riot police that were present did not intervene to calm the situation.

Morsi gave personal instructions to the security services not to use excessive force and to keep casualties to a minimum. Thus, the allegation that Morsi used force in this instance is inaccurate as this was a civil riot. Although the majority of the deaths were Brotherhood supporters’, showing the violence was disproportionately carried out by anti-Morsi rioters; the violence that came from the side of the Brotherhood supporters was enticed by civilians that had no affiliation to Morsi.

It’s important to remember that the president has no direct responsibility for any misconduct by the security services. Their incompetency to halt the violence during the riot is undeniable, but legally this is not something that Morsi should have been held accountable for. Full accountability should go to the interior ministry as they are the ones that are directly responsible for law enforcement in a country.

The interior minister at the time, Mohamed Youssef Ibrahim, not only failed to prevent the December riots, but many of the other riots which ensued. He faced much criticism for being a member of Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorial regime which ruled Egypt for 40 years and many demanded he step down.

He was also thought to be incompetent. His ineptness should be investigated to ensure that he was not deliberately enhancing civil instabilities to ease the way for the 2013 coup that toppled the democratically elected Morsi. After the 2013 coup, not only was he one of the ministers that stayed in government, but his anti-Brotherhood stance was more vocal and more violent.

Soon after the coup, in an interview with the state run news website Al Ahram, he said that pro-Morsi vigils and sit-ins would be put to an end no matter how peaceful they were. His inability to breakup protests diminished when pro-Morsi demonstrations were being held, including during the massacre of 2,000 anti-coup protestors on 14 August 2013.

It’s clear that Morsi’s sentence is based on outright lies and he was held responsible for events that he was not responsible for. It’s noteworthy that while Morsi received what is in essence a life sentence, an Egyptian court dropped charges against the country’s former dictator Hosni Mubarak and declared him innocent in November 2014 of killing protesters. Ironically, unlike Morsi, he was not charged for the killing of protestors during the 2011 uprising, nor was he charged for his decades of corruption that left millions of Egyptians subjected to injustice.

Today has shown the world once again that Egyptian courts act out of political motives rather than to attain justice, and seek to preserve the oppressive autocracy that plagues the country’s streets and its legal system.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.