THE shocking verdict by an Egyptian court sentencing to death no less than 100 people, including former president Mohammed Morsi, for a mass jailbreak highlights what Amnesty International rightly calls the deplorable state of the countrys criminal justice system.
Mr Morsi has already been sentenced to a 20-year jail term, and more cases against him and his supporters are pending on charges that include spying for foreign powers.
Saturdays convictions must be approved by the Grand Mufti, but his recommendation is advisory, and the state can go ahead with the executions even if the mufti rules against the hangings.
More than 100 people, most of them members of the Muslim Brotherhood, already stand condemned to death, and they include the Brotherhood chief Mohammed Badie, who has been given capital punishment in another case.
Even though there are many other dissidents facing various charges, it is impossible to avoid the impression that it is the Brotherhood that is the main victim of the judicial farce, and that the military-backed regime is using the courts to crush all opponents to the dispensation headed by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
The former army chief overthrew Egypts first elected government and later had himself fraudulently elected head of state.
Mr Morsi, it goes without saying, made many mistakes, and he showed haste and lack of political foresight in trying to amend the constitution without realising that he was challenging forces which were well-entrenched in Egyptian state and society and had a vested interest in the continuation of the status quo.
But those mistakes did not justify a military coup whose outcome has whitewashed all the modest gains democracy had made after the Arab Spring led to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, followed by Egypts first transparent election that brought Mr Morsi to power. Mr Mubaraks iron-fisted rule helped the fundamentalist forces, which, unlike the liberal elements cowed by the state, had managed to survive and grow in strength by carrying out social services among the masses.
The results were evident in the election results. This truth must be realised by the Sisi regime, for ideological parties and movements cannot be crushed by force and judicial farce.
Equally astonishing is the worlds attitude towards the recent developments in Egypt. Most Western governments, including the US, condemned the coup for records sake and have maintained normal relations with Cairo, and American aid to the Sisi regime continues.
The Arab world, too, has maintained a silence, and some Gulf countries positively welcomed the overthrow of the Morsi government.
Perhaps the only criticism of Saturdays verdict has come from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who likened todays Egypt to the pharaonic age.
There is little doubt the Sisi regime will continue for the foreseeable future, but the superficial stability it has given to the country is phoney and unlikely to serve Egypts long-term interests. (Dawn)
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