South Asia Research and Analysis Studies

Morsi awarded the death sentence
Muhammad Jamil

Unemployed youth along with other sections of society, including the opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood, came out in droves to protest against the government

An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced former president Mohamed Morsi and 106 others to death for a mass jail break in 2011. However, the verdict will be referred to the grand mufti, the highest religious authority in Egypt, for confirmation and the court will pronounce its final verdict on June 2, 2015. The verdict has drawn condemnation from Amnesty International and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan but most European countries that have banned the death sentence are mute. Even though the Brotherhood has long opted out of violence to pursue its objectives through acceptable, peaceful means and had been winning elections even before the Arab Spring, it was outlawed as a terrorist outfit in 2013. Its assets were frozen and seized, and even voices sympathetic to it were muzzled and silenced. Hundreds of its members have been killed and thousands incarcerated.
Not even female members were spared the deep state’s campaign to decimate the Muslim Brotherhood into extinction. Morsi was deposed by his then military chief and minister of defence, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, after mass protests against his rule in the summer of 2013. Following the coup, the former president’s supporters launched a series of protests and sit-ins across the country culminating in a crackdown by security forces that left hundreds dead. Egypt’s military junta declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation on account of a deadly bomb attack on the police establishment in the country’s Mansoura city. However, the responsibility of that bombing has been claimed by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, an al Qaeda aligned outfit, hostilely disposed towards the Brotherhood for its renouncing violence and joining the political mainstream.
In September 2013, an Egyptian court banned the Muslim Brotherhood and the ban was extended to the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing. Last month, an Egyptian court sentenced Morsi and 12 other defendants to 20 years in prison for ordering the arrest and torture of protesters in clashes outside the presidential palace in December 2012. The junta charged ousted president Mohamed Morsi as a ‘terrorist’ for meeting with Hamas leaders during his term in office even though the meetings were in the context of long-standing Egyptian attempts to broker a Palestinian rapprochement. In fact, there is a long history of banning the Muslim Brotherhood; it was banned in Egypt in 1948. It was accused of attacks on prime ministers, government functionaries and judges, and an attempt on Gamal Abdel Nasser’s life was made in 1954.
In the 1970s, President Sadat allowed the Brotherhood and Islamists to regroup in an effort to use them against the Nasserists and socialists. In 2005, the Brotherhood was a banned organisation and fielded its candidates as independents, managing to get around 20 percent of the seats. One could see that the Brotherhood had changed stripes coming out of clandestine activities and treading the democratic path. It was able to mobilise the people to get rid of Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship. After the January 2011 revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood was allowed to form a political party, the FJP. In June 2012 elections were held, and the FJP managed to get 46 percent of parliament’s seats. But within one year after forming the government, protests started. The protestors on the street were, in reality, the inveterate traditional opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood.
They found a chance to achieve what they could not at the ballot box but their hopes came crashing down when they found that the beneficiary of the protests would be someone else. They are concerned that a new Hosni Mubarak is in the making in the strong man el-Sisi, who had thrown his hat in the ring for elections and was elected. Of course, Morsi’s government had neglected the economy, which was in shambles. Unemployed youth along with other sections of society, including the opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood, came out in droves to protest against the government. Events leading to the ouster of Mohammed Morsi as the president of Egypt have reinforced the widely held belief that, for a democratic government to be meaningful, it should deliver and always be sensitive to the interests and aspirations of the people.
Just as the military rode on the back of 18 days of popular protests to topple Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-old government to pave the way for the emergence of Morsi, once again the Egyptian army lent a helping hand to millions of protesting crowds to get rid of president Morsi, who came to power on the basis of the religious fervour of his supporters. Rather than integrating diverse interest groups with different religious, political and social affiliations in order to mould a cohesive society, he was accused of playing the politics of alienation and discrimination. The first sign of trouble for Morsi came when he attempted to incorporate a clause into a draft constitution to grant him sweeping and unrestricted powers. The plan was quickly abandoned following sustained pressure mounted by the people through days of street protests. The clause would also have conferred on him immunity from judicial oversight.
His decision to back out and flee the presidential palace, however, did not stop the Egyptians from pressing ahead with more demands, asking for more secularity in governance, as against the bid to subject their freedoms, through an uncalled for constitutional amendment, to the authority of the strict Islamic law, sharia. Even though the sagging economy was one of the reasons for the rise against Mubarak, Morsi had absolutely no idea how to reverse the free fall nor did he appreciate the necessity to do so at all. Indeed, protesting voices are now ruing woefully their actions against Morsi, as they will have to bear the brunt of another dictatorship for a long time to come. However, if the vengeful campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood does not come to an end, the organisation is sure to go underground and peace will elude Egypt for a long time to come.