Facing Egypt’s kangaroo courts

May 28, 2015

Eric Ruder reports on Egypt's counterrevolution by the judiciary.

EGYPTIAN ACTIVISTS Mahienour el-Masry and Yousef Sha'aban have been remanded to jail while they await a May 31 hearing to decide on their appeal of a two-year prison sentence.

According to Egypt Solidarity, an international initiative against repression in Egypt, the court will be deciding on charges that are two years old:

Mahienour, Yousef and seven others were sentenced to two years in prison and a 5,000 LE fine [about $600] last year in a case which dates back to the period when Mohamed Morsi was in power. The activists were accused of storming Raml police station in Alexandria after they went to protest in solidarity with lawyers who were attacked by the police after attempting to represent arrested clients.

Last year, el-Masry served four months of a six-month prison sentence before it was suspended by a judge. Then, she and four others were again arrested in Alexandria in November after another protest.

THE REPEATED attempts to imprison Egyptian revolutionaries are indicative of the regime's strategy of imposing its agenda of counterrevolution by means of the judiciary. Egypt's prosecutors have filed trumped-up charges against activists; its judges have presided over cases that lack the most basic due process and handed out sentences totally out of proportion to the "crime" of exercising the right to protest; and its prison wardens have abused and tortured countless people.

Mahienour el-Masry
Mahienour el-Masry

Currently, more than 41,000 people are being detained in Egypt. Former President Mohamed Morsi and many more have been sentenced to death--others face harsh sentences, running to life in prison, for daring to oppose Egypt's authoritarian rulers.

In the so-called "Arab Sharkas" case, a military court tried nine defendants on charges of attacking an army personnel carrier in March 2014, sentencing seven to death and two to life in prison. But at least two of those sentenced to death couldn't have possibly participated because they were being held in Egyptian prison at the time of their "crime." On May 16, six of the seven condemned to death were executed--the same day that Morsi and 100 others were given death sentences.

Egyptian democracy activists, revolutionary socialists, moderate Islamists--all are being targeted by the regime of Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi.

Sondos Asem, who is pursuing a graduate degree in public policy in Britain, recently learned that she had been sentenced to death in absentia by an Egyptian court. On May 26, she wrote in the Chicago Tribune:

I received with total disbelief the news that on May 16 an Egyptian court had sentenced me to death--along with former President Mohamed Morsi, a number of his aides and several respected public figures, including renowned scholar Emad Shahin. The charges in my case, like Morsi's, are false and entirely political. The world knows by now the nature of the Egyptian regime's kangaroo trials of political opponents, which international human rights organizations describe as a "charade" lacking due process and violating Egyptian and international law...

I did not imagine that my support for democracy and my service in the administration of Egypt's first democratically elected president would land me in jail or be used against me as a crime warranting the death penalty...Though I was sentenced in the so-called grand espionage case, the Egyptian regime seeks to end my life for no reason other than who I am: an educated, politically active and independent woman with mainstream Islamic views...and this has earned me the dubious honor of being the first woman in modern Egyptian history to be sentenced to death for political reasons.

There will be protests on behalf of el-Masry and Sha'aban as well as global days of action in solidarity with all Egyptian political prisoners later in June.

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