Recently in Cairo:
An Egyptian court on Saturday [May 16] sentenced to death the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, along with more than 100 others, for fleeing prison during the 2011 revolt against President Hosni Mubarak.
Mr. Morsi’s conviction is the latest sign of the undoing of the uprising that overthrew Mr. Mubarak. Mr. Morsi, who was Egypt’s first freely elected leader, now faces the death penalty for escaping extralegal detention — a form of detention that many Egyptians hoped would be eliminated by the revolution.
The past few years in Egypt have been painful to watch. The 2011 revolution that seemed to give many moderate Egyptians hope for a more democratic future was snuffed out after a 2013 coup against their first ever elected leader. Morsi was clearly unpopular and his religious extremism arguably rendered him unfit for the office. But it should be clear now that Egypt would be much better off had they democratically replaced him rather than the extreme response from al-Sisi and the Egyptian military.
At the time of the coup, I chatted a lot with a former co-worker from Microsoft who’d gone back to Alexandria (and who Dana and I visited in Cairo in 2007). He was torn between his fear of greater Islamic control of the country and his desire to trust the democratic process. It’s hard for most Americans to put themselves in his shoes. He supported the coup, but hoped it would still lead to more democratic reforms. It hasn’t (and he’s since moved out of the country again).
Ebrahim Deen, a researcher based in South Africa, wrote about Morsi’s death sentence (which he believes won’t actually be carried out) at Informed Comment:
The trial verdicts –Mursi was sentenced to life in prison on the espionage charge as well– were procedurally flawed, defendant’s had irregular access to legal representation, and evidence gathering and cross examination procedures were severely compromised. The glaring fact that the initial arrests were carried out by the former Mubarak regime in early 2011 under emergency law and without detention orders was not considered and so to [sic] was the communication between Mursi and an Aljazeera journalist the day of the ‘breakout’ wherein he provided the name, and street address of the prison, asserting that they were not escaping and would remain at the location awaiting government officials responses. The prosecutorial process had been extremely and even laughably shoddy. Of the around seventy Palestinians sentenced, two (Hossam Sanie and Raed El-Attar) had already died –Sanie as far ago as 2008 and Attar, during Israel’s operation ‘pillar of defence’ in 2014, which caused the deaths of over 2000, mostly civilian, Gazans. Another, Hassan Salama, has purportedly been in detention in Israel since 1996 and could not have possibly committed the alleged crimes from inside an Israeli cell. Further in the espionage case, which saw Muslim Brotherhood leaders including Mohamed El-Beltagy and Mohamed Khairet El-Shater receive death sentences, Emad Shahin, a political science professor now based at Georgetown University, who has no real links with the Brotherhood was handed the same censure, and so to was Sondos Assem, a media liaison official employed by Mursi.
This is an insult to everyone’s intelligence. Morsi is being sentenced for breaking out of a prison that shouldn’t have had the authority to hold him in the first place. Al-Sisi has taken Egypt back to the pre-2011 authoritarian regime where illegal detentions are commonplace, torture is routine, and members of religious parties like the Muslim Brotherhood are presumed to be terrorists, regardless of what those individuals have actually done. Deen continues:
These sentences are the latest in a string of actions adopted by the Sisi regime to crackdown on opposition and descent. Following the 2013 ouster, thousands have been killed, and over 16000 political prisoners currently languish in Egyptian detention facilities. A protest law, which has banned sit-ins and severely curtailed other protest rights, was adopted in November 2013, while in April, the Cairo Administrative Court criminalised worker strikes. Liberals and secular activists have not escaped this purge, in December 2014 Ahmed Maher, Mohamed Adel, and Ahmed Douma, three influential members of the April 6 youth movement were sentenced to three years for organizing protests in contravention of the protest law, while in February Douma was amongst over two hundred who received life sentences for inciting violence and destroying a science facility housing precious artefacts. Shahin’s farcical conviction falls into this milieu. Being opposed to the military ouster, publically vocalising this through writings and interviews, and being somewhat more ‘reputable’ internationally were the main reasons informing his death sentence. In 2014 alone, over 1400 individuals were sentenced to death in mass trials, which usually took only a few days to complete, and lacked even basic prosecutorial and judicial impartiality. It is noteworthy that the judiciary was a key cog in the political structure which allowed and maintained Mubarak’s regime and that following Mursi’s ouster, Sisi has sought a similar role for the institution –Adli Mansour (head of the Supreme Constitutional Court) was even installed caretaker president following the coup.
At least it’s not a theocracy, I guess.
News items from the last two weeks…
Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the World Health Assembly that it’s time to end drug prohibition and find ways to introduce regulated markets for drugs.
Trevor Timm writes about the effort to bring about meaningful NSA reform in Congress,
and find newly appointed Attorney General Loretta Lynch playing fast and loose with the facts on Patriot Act section 215. UPDATE: As commenter LucasFoxx points out, the argument in the second link is nonsense. There’s no discrepancy between Lynch’s words and the FBI’s assessment of the Patroit Act.
The FBI admitted it was unable to crack any terrorism cases using the Patriot Act’s surveillance provisions. But they do track environmental protestors.
Another leaked NSA document showed that the NSA was working on spy-ware that would hijack links to Google and Samsung app stores.
David Cay Johnston writes about the NSA’s inclination to consider journalists who cover terrorism as terrorists themselves.
Radley Balko writes about Obama’s recent efforts to demilitarize American police.
Marc Mauer and David Cole discuss how to end mass incarceration.
Bennett Stein points out some of the questions behind the FBI’s use of license plate readers within the U.S.
Religious extremists in the U.S. House passed a late-term abortion ban.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and 250 tech companies are concerned that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will harm internet freedom.
California Alcoholic Beverage Control agents raided the makers of a tea that contains roughly .5% alcohol.
DEA agents in Albuquerque stole $16,000 from a young man traveling cross-country to start a music video company.
A Texas police officer will not be indicted after shooting and killing a Mexican immigrant near Dallas.
An Oklahoma lawmaker is facing retaliation from police for trying to reform the forfeiture laws in the state.
In Tulsa, a 21-year-old black man is a quadriplegic in a case where the police account of the incident has a number of inconsistencies.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon commuted the sentence of Jeff Mizanskey, a grandfather who’d been serving a life sentence for marijuana offenses.
A U.S. Appeals court blocked Arkansas’ extreme abortion ban.
More evidence showing how awful the police in Chicago are.
Jaeah Lee writes about the inexcusable lack of activity in Cleveland regarding the investigation of Tamir Rice’s shooting death last November at the hands of a police officer. Also in Cleveland, a police officer was acquitted of an execution-style murder of two people who’d led the police on a high-speed chase. If it seems like there’s something wrong with the Cleveland Police department, it’s because there is.
Dr. Stephanie Mayfield writes about the need for more needle exchange programs in Kentucky.
Spencer Woodman details another case, in Fayetteville, NC, involving a questionable police shooting of a black motorist who tried to flee.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan vetoed a series of criminal justice reforms. Matt Taibbi writes about why Baltimore – and other cities – are rising up against an oppressive criminal justice system that actively antagonizes and provokes minority communities.
Daniel Denvir writes about how difficult it is to convict crooked cops, even the ones as blatantly crooked as the Philly narcotics officers who were accused of dangling a man over a balcony.
Dave Zirin writes about the NYPD breaking the leg of NBA player Thabo Sefolosha.
A recent college graduate in New York state was detained and tasered by Border Patrol officers near the Canadian border.
Julia Scott writes about the challenge to the anti-sodomy ban in Belize.
The Israeli government backed off a plan to segregate bus riders in the West Bank.
Ilan Lior reports on what happens to Eritrean and Sudanese aslyum seekers after they’re rejected by Israel and sent to Rwanda or Uganda.
Amnesty International criticized Hamas for torture and other war crimes during the 2014 bombing campaign in Gaza.
Nigeria’s incoming President, Muhammadu Buhari, has a lot of work to do to fix Nigeria’s broken justice system and history of political violence.
The President of Gambia threatened to slit the throats of gay people in his country.
After the failed coup in Burundi, journalists are being threatened by the government.
The South African government is deporting migrants from Mozambique after violence broke out between locals and the new arrivals.
Timothy Burke writes about the slave labor bringing us the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
Andrew Lowry interviews Maziar Bahari about his time being imprisoned by the Iranian regime after the 2009 elections.
The Iranian judge presiding over the case of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian has barred all family members from witnessing the trial. His brother in California is profiled here. It appears that part of the evidence against him is that he once applied to work for the Obama Administration.
Iran is executing about 2 people per day so far in 2015 for drug crimes.
The Chinese government has been holding human rights attorney Pu Zhiqiang for over a year for “provoking trouble”.
Kate Lamb writes about the plight of the Rohingya Muslim refugees standed in SE Asia waters. These boats of persecuted people are known as ‘floating coffins‘. Nobel Zaw profiles a man from Myanmar who was held as a slave for 10 years.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement will not explicitly exclude countries like Malaysia, where human slavery is still commonplace.