An out-of-control Egyptian government has now sentenced more than 680 people to death in a mass trial that lasted a few minutes and is part of an organized effort not just to crush its political opponents but to eliminate them. Last month, a court delivered a similar sentence on 529 other Islamists. The sentences further demonstrate that the military-led government’s ruthless disregard for the law and its contrary political views go far beyond anything that former President Mohammed Morsi was accused of doing when he was deposed by the army in July.
And what did the Obama administration have to say about this travesty, which will further fuel hostility and division in one of the Arab world’s most important countries? “The United States is deeply troubled,” the office of the press secretary said in a shockingly weak statement.
The death sentences are subject to appeal, but that is little solace to the defendants who have been accused and sentenced with nothing resembling justice or even minimal due process. In Monday’s ruling, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Badie, was among those convicted even though he repeatedly emphasized nonviolence in his public remarks in the period leading up the anti-Islamist crackdown that began with Morsi’s overthrow and the backlash against it.
The sentences were imposed for inciting violence and disturbances in which one police officer was allegedly killed. But none of those sentenced was charged with participating in murder. They were given the death sentence for lesser crimes.
The courts in Egypt were once regarded as relatively liberal within the country’s authoritarian system, but it is clear the judges have become a government tool. There has been no serious attempt to deliver justice for the thousands of Islamists and other anti-government critics who are now languishing in jails or the estimated 1,000 who were killed by security forces during last year’s protests by supporters of Morsi and the Brotherhood.
Like the United States, Israel has an interest in a stable Egypt that can honor the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty and defeat militants in Sinai. But an Egyptian government that persecutes its political opponents and denies them justice and any political role in society will produce only instability and violence.
— The New York Times
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