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New death sentences in Egypt demand us to seek clemency for the accused

This picture shows the courtroom and soundproof glass dock (bottom) during the trial of 700 defendants including Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, in the capital Cairo, on September 8, 2018 [MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP via Getty Images]
This picture shows the courtroom and soundproof glass dock (bottom) during the trial of 700 defendants including Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, in the capital Cairo, on September 8, 2018 [MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP via Getty Images]

Two weeks ago, the Court of Cassation in Egypt upheld the death sentences handed down to 12 defendants in the Rabaa Al-Adawiya protest dispersal case. The court reduced the sentences of 31 others from death to a life sentence.

I have written before about death sentences in Egypt, and how coup leader Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi controls the judiciary to the extent that the Ministry of Justice is nothing but an office customising laws to suit his whims and investments in the country's capabilities. Al-Sisi can say, in public and without batting an eyelid, that he has no political prisoners in more than 70 prisons, as well as 382 detention centres, where cases are fabricated against prisoners.

On the same day that the above death sentences were announced, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told Al Jazeera that the reality is different from what is being promoted about the human rights situation in Egypt. The justice portfolio, he claimed, is transparent, and there are no political arrests in the country.

The regime has been able to promote itself around the world as the saviour of Egypt from the Islamists' grip. It has played all the right notes to serenade some governments that would have been tempted to put a spoke in the coup's wheel.

READ: Egypt court sentences man to death on terror charges

Despite the clear video and audio evidence of what the military coup authorities did during the dispersal of the Rabaa Square and Al-Nahda Square protests — perhaps tantamount to a crime against humanity — the world has largely accepted the allegations of "terrorism" against the Egyptian revolution and its spearhead, the Muslim Brotherhood. This was solely to get rid of a president who emerged from among the people and who does not represent the interests of countries which accepted a traitor on their red carpets because he would give them what the legitimate, democratically-elected president would not.

Amnesty International's appeal to the Egyptian authorities to re-try the people convicted in the Rabaa protest dispersal case in a fair and impartial manner, without resorting to the death penalty, is, in my opinion, an endorsement of the regime's accusation of "terrorism" against them; even an endorsement of the decision to punish them as criminals. How is it possible for Amnesty to expect that a regime which arrived on the back of a tank and shed a waterfall of blood can ever be just and impartial? The world truly is going mad.

Even the countries that supported the Egyptian revolution have retreated in the light of the political moves on the regional chessboard. Arab Spring "revolutions" have been turned into "civil wars"; "revolutionaries" have become "opponents". Al-Sisi has been given the chance to turn the page of the past, move on and develop bilateral cooperation.

The regime has made sure to defame the individuals who rose up against the coup, accusing them of forming a terrorist organisation or being affiliated with one. The idea is to cut off any sympathy for their plight domestically or internationally.

Thus an ugly image is painted of anyone who participated in the 2011 January Revolution, especially the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, as if they had landed in Egypt from another planet come to annihilate humanity. Every name against which a sentence has been issued has a good background and reputation, as well as a good social and professional standing. They are all people who have an impact on those around them. Thus, the testimony of the public refutes the lies spread by the regime-controlled media, for which huge budgets have been allocated.

Among those whose death sentences have been upheld is Mohamed El-Beltagy, 58, one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. He holds a doctorate and was a teacher in the Ear, Nose, and Throat Department at the Faculty of Medicine at Al-Hussein University Hospital. He was active in the Doctors' Syndicate relief committee and worked as a director of one of the branches of charitable medical activity. He also participated in the Freedom Flotilla to lift the siege on Gaza.

Freedom Flotilla III - Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Freedom Flotilla III – Cartoon [Carlos Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Mohamed El-Beltagy won by a landslide standing for the People's Assembly in 2005. He defended the independence of the judiciary and freedom of the press. He refused to consider imprisonment in publishing cases, the extension of the state of emergency, the unjust constitutional amendments in 2007 and military trials for civilians. He defended the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful demonstration. Beltagy co-founded the Egyptian campaign against the inheritance of power in 2009, represented the Muslim Brotherhood in the National Association for Change, and ran for the 2010 People's Assembly elections, which witnessed examples of flagrant fraud. He contributed to the establishment of the "popular parliament", participated in the January 25 Revolution, and was elected to the Revolution's Board of Trustees. He also co-founded the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, and was chosen as its Secretary-General, winning the 2011 Egyptian Parliamentary election.

On 29 August 2013, the Public Prosecution ordered Beltagy's arrest for participating in the Rabaa Al-Adawiya protest. There is a famous video in which the regime edited his speech and portrayed him as linking the cessation of protests with the return of President Mohamed Morsi. He has since been sentenced to a total of 170 years in prison as well as death, covering 12 cases.

Beltagy accused the leaders of the Egyptian regime of killing his daughter Asma during the dispersal of the protest in Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square. His 19-year-old son, Anas, has been held in solitary confinement since 2013. He is banned from having visitors, exercising, and completing his studies. The allegations against him remain unsubstantiated.

Another of those handed a death sentence is Safwat Hegazi, 58, the imam of a mosque in Cairo, and a presenter of an Islamic preaching series on satellite TV. He was the Secretary-General of the January 25 Revolution Council of Trustees coalition. He was one of the candidates for the 2012 presidential elections, but the Islamist group withdrew its support for him at the last moment. He also participated in the Rabaa sit-in and was arrested on 21 August 2013.

Abdul Rahman Al-Bar holds a doctorate in Hadith Studies and Sciences, with distinction. He worked as a professor in his specialty, supervised many masters and doctoral theses, and has authored 22 books in Islamic Sharia sciences. The security forces arrested his son Muhammad and five of his student friends at the Faculty of Medicine and arrested his daughter Aisha while visiting her brother.

Osama Yassin, 57, has a doctorate in pediatrics. He was the assistant secretary-general of the Freedom and Justice Party; the Brotherhood's field coordinator during the events of the Egyptian revolution; and the head of the Youth Committee in Parliament 2012. He worked as a youth minister in the government of Dr Qandil during President Mohamed Morsi's rule. He was arrested on 26 August 2013.

READ: Egypt upholds death penalty for 12 Brotherhood members over Rabaa events

Ahmed Aref is an oral and dental specialist, former assistant secretary of the union, and media spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood. He has been detained since 22 August 2013. He is in solitary confinement in the notorious Al-Aqrab (Scorpion) Prison.

Finally, Muhammad Al-Zanati is a consultant doctor of general and endoscopic surgery. He was arrested at his workplace in 2013. His son, a student at the Faculty of Engineering, was killed on the day of the Rabaa dispersal.

I no longer demand anything from any party. The concerned parties may have more facts than I do. The matter depends on whether they would like to take an honourable position or not. I write about the oppressed and the tormented while I have never belonged to any group or held any specific political orientation. I address anyone and everyone who has any sense of feeling or emotion in this world, hoping that they will hear my call and shout in turn in the ears of humanity. Perhaps those who still have a conscience will hear us, and justice will prevail with the release of the above and their co-accused.

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

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