Opinion: New round of death sentences in Egypt | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 28.04.2014
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Middle East

Opinion: New round of death sentences in Egypt

Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters face the death penalty, while a court has banned a youth group that was instrumental in Mubarak's overthrow. Egypt's judiciary is disturbingly compliant, writes Rainer Sollich.

Egypt's judiciary knows no measure and no mercy. Following a court's decision to sentence 529 suspected members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death in March, another 683 death sentences were handed down in one fell swoop on Monday (28.04.2014). Among them was the politically explosive conviction of Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohammed Badie.

The convicted individuals are accused of participating in riots and the murder of a policeman after the ousting of former president and Muslim brother, Mohammed Morsi. It seems grotesque that, according to the judge, a total of almost 1,200 people are now presumed guilty.

During Monday's mass trial the judge commuted 491 of the previous death sentences to life imprisonment, and there's a possibility the latest round of convictions could also be softened. It's an example of the kind of political show trials one can expect from dictatorships, staged with the purpose of deterring opposition.

Egypt isn't quite a dictatorship. But under the military it's becoming an increasingly repressive state. Democracy and the rule of law - not to mention regard for human dignity - hardly exist, despite the ideals of the Arab Spring.

The fact that defendants are routinely paraded before the court in metal cages is a clear sign that it's not the people who wield the power here. Rather, it's a regime that enjoys the support of an increasingly compliant judiciary. Even former dictator Hosni Mubarak didn't have the same level of control over the country's judges.

The mass verdict is not about justice though. It resembles a kind of victor's justice, for rulers over opposition groups, as was shown by another of Monday's judgments in which the April 6 youth movement was banned. Unlike the Muslim Brotherhood, there is no doubt about the organization's democratic stance. It is made up of liberal, left-leaning, secular activists who played a significant role in the overthrow of Mubarak, and who, more recently, have repeatedly spoken out against the power of the military.

It is noteworthy that the country's leaders perceive such political forces as enemies of the state. In such a social climate, more violence seems inevitable, while development and political stability remain elusive. This reality unfortunately also threatens to push Egypt further into economic decline.

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