Never before has Egypt's notoriously slow-moving justice system been so "effective." Judges presiding over a summary trial in the Upper Egyptian city of Minya on Monday (24.03.2014) have sentenced 529 suspected supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood to death for their alleged participation in riots and the murder of a policeman.
They needed just two days to get through this mass lawsuit. And the court evidently felt there was no need to grant the defense a hearing. Although the convicted individuals can lodge an appeal against this unprecedented scandal of a decision, one thing is certain - this will be remembered as one of the darkest days in the history of the Egyptian judiciary.
The death sentences disregard all internationally recognized minimum standards for the rule of law and fairness. They signal the demise of a once-proud justice system. But more importantly, the sentences are the work of a politicized judiciary, acting as an instrument of revenge on behalf of the new military rulers and the oligarchy.
Brotherhood must be part of new beginning
The death sentences continue the Egyptian military regime's systematic criminalization of the organization which gave birth to political Islam. They threaten to destroy forever any chance of national reconciliation and a genuine new beginning in Egypt following the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohammed Morsi.
This policy of demonizing the Islamists - which goes hand in hand with the repression of secular and democratic forces in a climate of fear and hysteria - is likely to jeopardize the future of what is the world's largest Arab country.
It is simply naïve to believe that a mass organization like the Muslim Brotherhood, deeply anchored in the general population, can be removed by force alone. Additionally, alarming reports from human rights organizations have documented a massive increase of systematic torture in the country's prisons since Morsi was overthrown in July 2013. Even the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights recently criticized the use of violence against unarmed members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Egypturgently needs to implement a national agenda of reconciliation that involves all political forces and which uses non-military means of conflict resolution. Failure to do so could see the creation of a new generation of terrorists, plunging the country into fear and dread.
To avoid this possible "Pakistanization" of Egypt, western states should also do everything in their power to help set the new rulers on the right path. It would be in Europe's best interest.