Justice in Egypt

The latest mass death sentence handed down in Egypt received a fair amount of press. (Enough to incense Egypt's Foreign Ministry, which has released its usual ridiculous statement sniffily calling for the respect of non-existent "international conventions" not to ever question the ruling of any judge anywhere). 

I wrote about mass sentences and the role of the Egyptian judiciary over a year ago. Since then the sentences have continued apace. The only reason this one has received particular attention, in fact, is  because the convicted included former president Mohamed Morsi. Those sentenced to death also include Freedom and Justice Party spokeswoman Sondos Asem and Professor Emad Shahin who having fled the country is currently teaching at Georgetown. The Atlantic Council's EgyptSource blog has an excellent round up of the cases, charges, and reactions here

As I've written before, I can think of few things more destructive to a social peace than the belief that there is no possible recourse to justice. All judicial systems are imperfect, but citizens must at least harbor the hope, the delusion even, that there are avenues for redress. 

The Egyptian judicial system -- which has long been held in esteem -- has been deeply damaged by its overt political partisanship since 2011; the corruption, lack of independence and nepotism that are seemingly endemic to the institution have been exposed. The Sisi regime has brushed aside any calls for reform and supported judges' own interpretation of "judicial independence" meaning not insulation from political pressures but rather a deal in which judges, in exchange for their loyalty to the state, face no accountability and no criticism. It has just appointed the megalomaniac Ahmed El Zind as its new Minister of Justice. 

But as we've seen, even this latest egregious sentencing is not denting the support of Egypt's Western allies for "engagement." The question is now whether these sentences will be carried out. But while the world was focused on the Morsi conviction, another six young men accused of carrying out terrorism attacks were hastily executed last weekend. Below is a short message --translated by the team at Industry Arabic -- that another man recently condemned to death shared with the "Freedom for The Brave" group, an activist group that highlights unlawful detentions. The death sentence of Amer Musaad was upheld and approved by the Grand Mufti this week.

"I truly don’t want to spoil your wonderful night. I don’t know exactly whether your night is wonderful or not, but for me, anything other than this solitary confinement where I crouch would be nice and wonderful…I won’t go on long. I just wanted to let you know I’m waiting for the sentencing hearing for three of the four cases in which my case file has been sent to the Grand Mufti [Ed.Note: The Mufti approves all death penalties]. I’m waiting for the sentence to be pronounced in only five days, on 18 May 2015. Don’t tell me that there’s nothing you can do for me. You can do a lot. Post about me, tell them I was tortured like nobody else, and that I confessed only to be spared more torture. I didn’t know that death was waiting for me four times over…Tell them that I don’t deserve to be killed!"
Amer is accused of bombing the Dakahlia security directorate, an attack that occurred on 24 December 2013 – two weeks after he had already been arrested.




Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.