This article was leaked from prison by Dr Mohamed El-Beltagy explicitly to a number of media organisations, including Arabi 21. Dr Mohamed El-Beltagy is a prominent Muslim Brotherhood leader imprisoned in Egypt and a former member of the People’s Assembly.
On the afternoon of Tuesday 25 January 2011, I, along with my wife and children, went to the Egyptian High Court of Justice and then to Tahrir Square, located in the heart of Cairo. We joined the mass marches that began after the Friday Prayers on 28 January in the Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque in Nasr City and then headed for Tahrir Square. We were surrounded by police and they fired bullets and bombs on us between Ramses and Tahrir. Some of us died as martyrs.
At the time, my daughter Asmaa, 14, and her brother Hossam, 9, were aware, like thousands of other young men and women participating in the march, that they were writing one of the greatest pages in Egypt’s modern history. They were also aware that they might have to pay with their lives as the price of the lines they were writing on that glorious page in history.
The events that followed carried many hopes and pains, successes and failures. They continued until Asmaa was killed by a military sniper’s bullet during the Rabaa Massacre on 14 August 2013. Hossam was forced to leave the country with his mother and siblings after his sister was killed and his father imprisoned. He, a ninth grader in school, was wanted for arrest, just like his father and brother Anas.
No one imagined that the day would come when those who participated in the January 25 Revolution would be sent to the gallows on charges of helping the foreign armed forces that occupied the country overthrow the regime and force the government to hand over authority over to the Muslim Brotherhood.
This is not an exaggeration on my part aiming to gain sympathy with our cause or grievances, nor is it the impact of solitary confinement, torture, and deprivation of all rights for over four years. However, what has happened is the ugliest crime committed by the violent military coup that occurred in Egypt on 3 July 2013. This crime is no less heinous than the coup itself (a coup staged by the defence minister against the first elected president after a glorious revolution) and the subsequent massacres, crimes, and disasters the people are still going through. This is a crime of falsifying history.
The coup was staged as an attempt to distract Egyptians from one of the brightest pages in modern history, the January 25 Revolution, every moment of which was followed by the world. The world saw this as a unique example of a civilised revolution through which the Egyptian people successfully forced Hosni Mubarak to step down.
Today the coup and the ruling government in Egypt formally consider the January 25 Revolution as a “foreign occupation”. I am not referring to what Mubarak and Omar Suleiman called the revolution, i.e. a foreign conspiracy, but rather an armed foreign occupation of the Egyptian state’s territories.
Today’s government and its official institutions are saying that a foreign occupation of the country occurred on 28 January 2011 that aimed to overthrow the Egyptian state and hand it over to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The government considered the revolution to be an occupation of several Egyptian municipalities that was unknown to the world and not covered by reporters and journalists who reported all the events of the revolution. The government claims that even the Egyptians did not feel this occupation and did not discover it for many years.
In its ruling, issued on 16 June 2015, the Cairo Criminal Court (unanimously approved by judges after the approval of the Egyptian mufti) ruled that according to the ruling draft, “the defendants and over 800 others individuals belonging to Hamas, Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, carried out acts that harm the independence of the state and the safety of its territories in late January 2011 and early February in the governorates of North Sinai, Cairo, Qaliubiya, and Beheira”.
The ruling draft also added that these individuals “entered the country from the
eastern border in heavily armed SUV’s (armed with RPGs and grenades) and managed to control the border strip. They destroyed government and security institutions in Rafah and Al-Arish, and then continued their march to Cairo, Qaliubiya and Beheira. They proceeded to storm 160 police stations and the Abu Zaabal, Marj and Wadi Al-Natroun prisons, smashing their walls, destroying their buildings, and looting its stores, weapons, furniture, cars and equipment”.
It added: “They enabled more than 20,000 prisoners to escape and spread chaos in the country. They deliberately dealt a blow to the Egyptian police institution and paralysed it in order to overthrow the state and its institutions. Some of the defendants logged onto social media sites and incited the public to storm and burn police stations, and create a state of chaos. They allowed armed forces into the country and successfully completed the steps of their criminal project.”
According to the draft ruling, “Another group provided the needs of the foreign armed elements, including vehicles, weapons and ammunition, and provided them with means of sustenance. They facilitated their entry and exit from the country after they played their assigned role. This was carried out based on a secret agreement made in Syria in November 2010 between representatives of Hamas, The Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Muslim Brotherhood leaders.”
The Memorandum of Judgement convicted the following present individuals:
Dr Mohamed Morsi, elected President of the Republic, Mohamed Saad El-Katatni, first Speaker of the elected People’s Assembly, Dr Essam El-Erian and Dr Mohamed El-Beltagy, elected members of the People’s Assembly, Dr Mohamed Badie, Khairat El-Shater, Dr Rashad Bayumi, and Dr Mohyi Hamed, members of the Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Office, and Dr Ahmed Abdel Ati, Director of the President’s office.
Eighty-seven others were sentenced to execution in absentia, including Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, on charges of assisting the foreign armed forces that entered the country on 28 January 2011.
When these trials began in January 2014, several months after the coup, we dealt with this false narrative as a satirical play aimed at keeping us locked up for as long as possible, that would eventually end in nothing. However, we ultimately found that the court announced in its ruling that “the court is fully reassured by the investigations of the national security force and General Intelligence, which confirmed the validity of these facts”.
During the hearings, we would constantly make jokes as we listened to and discussed the police and intelligence witnesses. We would ask the following questions:
- How did this large number of armed foreigners, over 800 of them, enter with their vehicles and heavy artillery as far as 300 kilometres away from the eastern border, and then go back after committing all of these armed crimes without being seen or captured on camera? How did they do this without even one being killed, wounded, or arrested, and how did they manage not to leave behind any traces of their weapons, cars, etc.?
Did the Armed Forces and its leadership not know about the entry or exit of these foreign forces or did they know but were unable to confront and thwart them? Or did they collude with these foreign armed individuals against the safety of the country and the state facilities?
- How did 200 vehicles, carrying over 800 armed foreign fighters, pass over Al-Salam Bridge and the Suez Canal without Egyptian aircraft firing rockets at them or without the ground forces engaging in clashes with them?
- How was there no media, military, or political documentation, or even media investigations into these dangerous events occurring from 28 January 2011 to 3 January 2013, and then suddenly these accusations emerged after the military coup?
- Did the Egyptian Foreign Ministry inform the state institutions of these attacks by official organisations from neighbouring states (that also participate in these states’ governments – Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and Hamas)? Did the Foreign Ministry demand that the suspects in these events be handed over?
- Did the military and political leadership consider the events that took place in the country at the hands of armed foreign forces (the destruction, arson, damages, destruction, murder, and domination) as foreign and hostile occupation that must be retaliated against? Or did they consider it just a tourism trip into the country’s territories, which should be protected and secured?
- Why did the political leadership consider the events that took place on 25 January a revolution that should be officially celebrated, while it considers the (alleged) events as a catastrophe that flags should be taken down for?
Dozens, rather hundreds, of mocking questions were thrown in the face of the witnesses, who were either police officers, national security officers, or from the general intelligence, and who basked in the protection of the court committee and the lack of free and serious media. They all repeated the details of their false narrative and avoided the questions, while the court committee confirmed their right to refuse to answer any question they chose.
The court also refused to direct the question at the witnesses, on numerous occasions, for their own reasons. The court also refused to respond to the defence’s requests to summon any of the country’s military and political leaderships in order to question them about the grave events that took place, the extent of their knowledge of them, and their ability to confront them (Mubarak, Tantawi, Annan, and Al-Sisi).
The only individual the court responded to the request for his presence was the commander of the Second Field Army, Major General Mohammed Farid Hijazi, whom the defendants asked a specific question: “Did you have any knowledge about the entry of armed foreign forces into the country on 28 January 2011 and the activities inside the country that could harm the sovereignty of the state and its territorial integrity?” He replied, shortly and firmly: “I did not know and I was not informed.”
However, the court did not give any attention to the testimony of the first military field officer about the alleged events, and instead confirmed its complete satisfaction with the investigations of the National Guard and general intelligence.
It then issued its unanimous ruling, which was approved by the country’s mufti. They sentenced nine of the defendants to death sentence by hanging, including the elected president, who was elected in the only free elections conducted in the country, in the wake of a glorious popular revolution (elections in which 11 free candidates competed, and which the president won by 52 per cent of the vote, not 99 per cent, like all of the previous rigged elections).
When these sentences were presented to the Court of Cassation, it decided on 15 November 2015 to overturn the ruling, which it decried as flawed, given its lack of proof and reasoning. The Court of Cassation confirmed that national security and general intelligence investigations were not sufficient evidence, and are not considered an independent provider of evidence, and therefore the court ruled for a retrial.
We are now living through the chapters of this satirical play again, but in front of a new party. Some of us are being tried for the fourth time. A specific judge was assigned to two specific defendants. This same judge ruled in favour of continuing to imprison Mahdi Akef – a cancer patient who is 90-years-old – in precautionary custody. This goes against all humanitarian, legal and human rights conventions. He ultimately died a merciless death, close to deliberate murder.
The chapter of this new play is being acted out amid media silence, as the security officials often dictate to the journalists present in the courtroom during some important hearings what can and cannot be published.
The chapters of a new play are being acted out, as dozens of interior minister officers are testifying that armed foreign forces entered the country on 25 January 2015 and opened the prisons in all of Egypt’s municipalities, as well as set fire to police stations, set criminal prisoners free, and spread chaos in the country until the former regime fell.
The judge strongly refuses to summon any political and military leaders exclusively responsible for the decision to counter any foreign aggression against the country in order to ask them whether these blatant allegations are true or false. The judge is even rejecting any question posed by the defence regarding the role of the Armed Forces and its duty to confront these alleged recent attacks.
The chapters of this play are being acted out this time after the Court of Cassation law was amended and dozens of new departments were formed outside of the Court of Cassation. This time, the rulings will be absolutely final. We are awaiting their implementation, as they threaten us with the gallows.
We are not worried about these hearings, nor of their unjust, predetermined sentences. We are not worried about the abuse and torture now being inflicted on free people inside prisons after Egypt in its entirety has become one large prison.
The coup-led government and it supporters must know that we will not back down from out position of considering the events of 3 July 2013 as a criminal and violent military coup that dragged the country into an abyss of destruction, devastation, hatred, and rivalry. It has led to the total decline of the lives of the Egyptians in the present and future.
By writing these facts, I just wanted to inform the Egyptian people, whose awareness and intellect I do not doubt, of the true position of the coup-led government regarding the January 25 Revolution. I also want them to know the truth about the state of the Egyptian judiciary in light of the coup.
I want to inform the January rebels, who were united by the great revolution regardless of their political and national affiliation and then later divided by conspiracies. Perhaps we can catch up with the past and realign nationally on a more stable base, and learn from the lessons and mistakes we have all made in the past.
I wanted everyone to know that we have and continue to pay our lives, blood, freedom, and children as the price of the glorious January Revolution.
We are not saying this to hold this over the country’s and revolution’s head, but as a testament to the freedom and dignity that we dreamt of and fought for, and in preservation of the future of a country in which we wish everyone to lead a dignified life. We wish them rights, justice, and freedom. We say this out of protection of the January 25 rights, and we all hope for a bright future for our great nation and country, that we will protect with our lives and blood.
I want to hold all of the free people of the world, including politicians, journalists, lawyers, academics, etc. accountable, morally and historically, so that they cannot stand by idly in the face of the unjust hearings and death sentences against a political group based on a fabricated false narrative of the January 25 Revolution in 2011, the facts of which are known to everyone.
Translated from Arabi21, 17 January 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.