A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Egyptian Death Sentences

I've waited a full day to comment on the 529 (some reports say 528) death sentences passed down in one blow in Egypt yesterday, mostly because I'm speechless. The strong nationalist feeling against the Muslim Brotherhood has been in evidence since last summer, but the sheer enormity of this is unprecedented. And 683 more went on trial today.

The United Nations Human Rights Chief, the US State Department and most other countries, and Amnesty International and other human rights groups are unified in condemning the whole proceeding. The defendants' lawyers claim not to have been shown the evidence against their clients. The traditional independence of the Egyptian judiciary has long been in jeopardy, but the scale of this is mind-boggling. I can only assume that most of these sentences will eventually be reduced or commuted: Egypt is not Saddam's Iraq.

A note: after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981, 24 people were tried but only four (Khalid Islambouli and three others) were executed. Four people for assassinating a President, but 529 all blamed for the death of a single police officer?

I hope the sentences are quietly set aside after the Presidential election.


Anonymous said...

Unlike the Egyptian court perhaps you shouldn't rush to judgment on whether Egypt is like Iraq.

Dani Henriksen said...

To me that sounds like a circus

David Mack said...

Perhaps Anonymous is right. The Egyptian judiciary has demonstrated its independence as guardians of public security. Next it can demonstrate it is also a bulwark against abuse by those with executive powers.