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memri
December 3, 2018 No.
7786

Egyptian Journalist: Egypt Must Heed The International Criticism Of The Death Sentences Handed Down To 75 Muslim Brotherhood Activists

On September 8, 2018, an Egyptian court handed down death sentences to 75 Muslim Brotherhood (MB) activists who were involved in the demonstrations at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in 2013,[1] among them senior members of the organization such as 'Issam Al-'Arian and Muhammad Al-Baltaji, as well as the preacher Safwat Hijazi. The reports of these death sentences triggered international outrage, especially in the West and from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who claimed that the accused had  not been given a fair trial, and that, if carried out, the sentences would amount to "a gross and irreversible miscarriage of justice."[2] Similar criticism was expressed by the European Union.[3]

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry rebuffed this criticism and accused the UN and the European Union of being "unobjective" and of infringing on the sovereignty of Egypt and its legal system. It stressed that "the Egyptian institutions are determined to continue enforcing their authority in accordance with the Egyptian constitution," and that "Egypt is committed to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, in accordance with the UN Charter."[4]

 In response to Egypt's rejection of the international criticism, former Egyptian MP 'Amr Al-Shobaki – today a columnist with the Al-Masri Al-Yawm daily and a researcher at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies – published an article in which he attacked the Egyptian position and asserted that the country must not disregard the international criticism, and especially the Western criticism, regarding human rights. He wrote that Egypt could have improved its image in the world by publicizing the July 4, 2018 ruling of its appellate court that has removed dozens of MB activists from Egypt's terror lists. He also condemned several journalists who, instead of criticizing these death sentences, complained that more of them should have been handed down. Al-Shobaki called on Egypt – since it is part of the contemporary world, and in light of its desperate need for Western investments – to acknowledge its mistakes and to formulate guidelines for contending with the international community that will be helpful to the country and its citizens.

The following are translated excerpts from his article: [5]


'Amr Al-Shobaki (image: xn--mgbaj7gld.xn--wgbh1c)

"…There is need for a general political attitude that doesn't respond with sweeping condemnation to UN statements, reports of human rights organizations, or articles in the international press [criticizing Egypt], and for a broad perspective which comprehends Egypt's political situation and addresses the question of how we contend with the outside world.

"It's possible that, following several organized media campaigns aimed at turning the [Egyptian] public into [a bunch of] dimwits, some rhetorical questions arose, [such as]: 'Do we even need the outside world?' and 'Can we succeed economically like China, and thereby compensate for our weakness in the domain of human rights?' [The answer is that] Egypt definitely needs the outside world and is not capable of making economic achievements without foreign investments, especially after losing a large portion of its industrial infrastructure – which was the largest in the region and was built up during the 1960s – whether through deliberate neglect or through privatization programs that suffered from a lack of planning and from corruption. Over the past 40 years [Egypt] has become a part of the global system, economically and politically.

"Human rights and [fair] sentences are issues intensively debated in the West, despite the fact that Trump is in power in the United States and human rights [in Arab countries] are not at the top of his priority list, since he believes these values to be incongruent with Arab nations. Even if Egypt's foreign relations were focused on Russia and China [rather than the U.S.], our economic and political situation would still be much worse than that of [Russia and China]. [Therefore,] we cannot avoid a serious debate on the issue of domestic politics and the state of human rights, not for the sake of the West and the UN, but for the sake of the Egyptian citizen.

"The country could have marketed to the world the rulings of the [Egyptian] Appellate Court [from July 4, 2018] that removed [Mohamed] Aboutrika[6] and dozens of others from the list of designated terrorists, especially considering that the recent death sentences [of the 75 MB members] will be examined by [the same] court... [Had Egypt done so] it would have slightly improved its image in the eyes of the world.

"Unfortunately, some of our media figures claimed that too few death sentences had been handed down, while the citizens of any normal country are sorry that capital punishment exists [at all], even if it is justified, since it is a sign of social and political failing, even if [in the Egyptian case] the one primarily responsible for [the failing] is the Muslim Brotherhood.

"The response to the UN statement cannot be mere rejection. Rather, we must recognize our errors and mend them, and acknowledge that we are part of the world... [Moreover,] the image we project [to the world must] be genuine, because in the new world nothing can be concealed."

 


[1] These demonstrations – part of widespread and prolonged protests held in the summer 2013 by supporters of Muhammad Morsi after the army ousted him from office as Egypt's president – were forcibly dispersed by the security apparatuses. Hundreds of protesters were killed in the course of their dispersal. The 75 members of The Muslim Brotherhood were accused of planning terrorist attacks, among other charges. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5407, Pro-MB Columnist On The Dispersal Of Pro-Mursi Sit-Ins In Cairo: The Coup Regime Is Following The Path Of Hitler's Final Solution; Anti-MB Columnist: The MB 'Wants To Subject The Homeland And The People To The Law Of The Jungle And The Rule Of Terror,' August 14, 2013.

[2] News.un.org, September 9, 2018.

[3] Dailystar.com.lb, September 11, 2018.

[4] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi (Egypt), September 11, 2018.

[5] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), September 11, 2018.

[6] A well-known former Egyptian soccer player who opposed the conduct of the security forces in the January 2011 revolution that swept the Muslim Brotherhood into power. In January 2017 an Egyptian court placed him on Egypt's national terror list and ordered to freeze his assets on the allegation that he had used them to finance the MB. However, in July 2018 Egypt's highest appellate court overturned this ruling, removing Aboutrika and over 1,500 others from the list (Aljazeera.com, January 19, 2017; July 4, 2018).