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memri
June 29, 2016 No.
6496

Mounting Tension Between Egypt, Qatar Following Sentencing Of Former President Muhammad Mursi

On June 18, 2016, following a trial lasting almost three years,[1] an Egyptian court in Cairo sentenced former Egyptian president Muhammad Mursi to 40 years in prison on several charges, including leaking secret documents and information to Qatar and conspiring to harm Egypt's national interests as part of what has become known as the "spying for Qatar" affair. The court, under Judge Mohamed Shirin Fahmy, sentenced six other defendants to death in the same affair, including two Al-Jazeera journalists.[2]

The sentence sparked furious responses from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the countries that sponsor it. The two MB factions in Egypt[3] issued statements condemning it, claiming that the entire affair had been fabricated by the Al-Sisi's security apparatuses in order to take revenge upon Mursi, who is considered an emblem of purity, patriotism and sacrifice for the sake of the homeland.[4]  

Turkey, which is considered an ally of the Egyptian MB and shelters many of its members, likewise issued a condemnation, which said: "We voice our deep concern over the sentence... [handed down] to President Mursi, who was elected democratically in Egypt and has been imprisoned since 2013. We condemn this and believe that the decision will not help bring peace and stability to Egypt..."[5]

Qatar, likewise considered to be a sponsor of the MB, responded with anger as well. Its foreign ministry firmly condemned the sentences, calling the charges untrue. Foreign ministry official Ahmad Al-Rumaihi said: "The sentences are hardly surprising, considering the death sentences and life imprisonment sentences that Egyptian courts have handed down in recent years to over 1,000 people, only to revoke them later..." He added that the punishments had been imposed for reasons that had nothing to do with the law and constituted a dangerous precedent in relations among Arab countries. He noted further that Qatar had headed the countries that stood beside the Egyptian people since the January 25, 2011 revolution.[6]

The Qatari response to Mursi's sentence sparked a counter-reaction from Egypt. Responding to Qatar's condemnation, Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Ahmad Abu Zaid said that the Qatari position was not surprising, considering that Qatar had recruited its media against Egypt's people and institutions. History and the Egyptian people will not forget this injustice, he said.[7]

Egyptian MPs and media figures also slammed the condemnation issued by Qatar's foreign ministry. Talk show host Ahmad Moussa said, "Qatar is not a state, it knows neither law nor justice..."[8] Dr. 'Amr Hashem Rabi', vice president of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said that Qatar has played a destructive role in the region since the days of Hosni Mubarak.[9]

Reactions to the sentence appeared also in Egyptian and Qatari press articles, which reflected the dispute and the tension between the two countries over this affair. Egyptian articles condemned what they called Qatar's blunt interference in Egypt's internal affairs. Conversely, editors of Qatari dailies slammed the Al-Sisi administration and the Egyptian court system, questioning their integrity and their motives.

 
Mursi during the trial (Al-Ahram, Egypt, June 19, 2016)

The following are excerpts from Egyptian articles and from responses by the editors of Qatari dailies.

Egyptian Papers: Qatar Has Become An Enemy State, Must Understand There Will Be No Reconciliation With Traitors

Following the issuance of the sentences, Egyptian papers leveled harsh criticism at Qatar for "interfering" in matters of Egypt's security. The articles ridiculed Qatar and wondered if Egypt would sever its diplomatic ties with it over this affair.

Egyptian Daily Editor: The Sentence Sends A Message To Qatar's Emir - "Stay Away!"

Muhammad Amin, editor of the Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm, wrote: "The sentence in the case of the spying [for Qatar] sends a message no only to the MB but also a special message [meant] to reach the Qatari Emir. The message to the MB is that the [Egyptian] state will not stop pursuing the movement and is not interested in holding talks [with it] or reassessing its attitude towards 'the state of the [MB] General Guide.'

"The sentence also sends a loud and clear message to the Qatari Emir, [namely], 'Stay Away!'

"Now that the sentence has been handed down, some major questions linger: Has the little Emir [of Qatar] gotten the message? How did he take it to begin with? What is the meaning of Qatar wanting to hold Egyptian documents relating to [Egypt's] national security?...

"The sentence was handed down by the criminal court on behalf of the [Egyptian] people two years after [Mursi's] gang was banished from power. Before that, the people [itself] handed down their sentence by toppling the General Guide's state in an unprecedented revolution by millions. The current sentence is the answer to the grand lie [recently circulated by the MB] that Mursi would be acquitted and restored to the presidential throne - he is not innocent and will never return!... This is all empty talk; lies spread by the MB mechanisms, including the Qatari Al-Jazeera channel. I believe that the Emir of Qatar got the message and received this sentence [while dressed] in black and as a slap in the face.

"I do not know what the Emir of Qatar was betting on, and I do not know why he contacted President Al-Sisi at every opportunity. Does he hope to ease [the tension with Egypt], like his friend, [Turkish President] Erdogan? Does he wish to set things straight after first sabotaging [the relations]? Is it conceivable that [Egypt's] political leadership should reach out to him after he spied against us and harmed our national security?

"I believe this affair means Qatar has become an 'enemy state' and can no longer be a sister country, [since] siblings do not spy on each other.  I am speaking of the rash [Qatari] leadership. This leadership managed to deceive a foolish president [Mursi] in order to receive [from him] documents [pertaining to] national security. He who sells out his homeland sells out his good name and his honor, as Judge [Mohamed] Shirin Fahmy [who sentenced Mursi] said.

"The question now, [after] the crime of espionage has been proven, is will Egypt decide to sever relations with Doha? Will Egypt do this? Will it shout into the ear of the reckless Emir? Or will it back down due to Saudi Arabia and the UAE? Will it make do with the sentence [against Mursi]...? And will the criminal remain in jail for the rest of his life?

"It makes sense for Qatar to say [bad things] about the Egyptian justice system... [But] they will remain empty words, since despite all its efforts, Qatar failed to change Egypt's position in the espionage case. The justice system does not await orders and is not influenced by political instructions. Qatar's empty words are [just] bad propaganda that it has continued to spread since the fall of the [MB] gang...

"The sentence has been determined, and it conveys several messages - local, regional, and international: There is no reassessment of the attitude towards the terrorists and there will never be a reconciliation with traitors!"[10]


Judge Mohamed Shirin Fahmy at the trial (image: Jasarat.org, June 18, 2016)

Egyptian Writer: "Isn't There One Sensible Person Among 300,000 Qataris Who Would Carry Out A Coup Against The Regime?"

Al-Watan columnist Mahmoud Al-Kardousi wrote: "...The sentence of imprisonment handed down to the traitor Muhammad Mursi and his terrorist gang in the espionage case displeased Qatar. By God! Qatar, with its gas, its Al-Jazeera channel, and the American base in its territory is not worth the sash adorning [the breast of] the honorable Judge Mohamed Shirin. It has a 'foreign ministry' that insults Egypt's justice system and condemns the mentioning of its name [in the espionage affair]... By God, Qatar - which, clenched in Al-Sisi's fist would have immediately died and become a corpse - speaks of reasons that do not contribute to the fraternal ties [between the countries]. By God! Isn't there one sensible person among 300,000 Qataris who would carry out a coup against the regime and yell at the eunuchs of its royal palace: stop [interfering in Egypt's affairs]?!..." [11]

Qatari Daily Editors: The Sentence Is A Farce And A Mark Of Shame Upon Egypt's History, Court System

On the Qatari side, editors of government dailies harshly attacked Mursi's sentence and the allegations made against Qatar. They called the affair a blatant lie and a farce, and further proof that the Al-Sisi regime is a dictatorship that oppresses its people and controls its judiciary.

Al-Raya Editor: Tying Qatar To The Affair Is A "Ramadan Lie"; The Coup Regime has Turned Egypt Into A Giant Prison

Saleh Al-Kawari, editor-in-chief of the Qatari daily Al-Raya, wrote: "...Tying Qatar's name to the sentence in this baseless lawsuit is a fabricated allegation and a blatant lie, [coming] during Ramadan, [of all times]. At the very least, this can be called 'the Ramadan lie.' This is because Qatar, at which this lie was directed, is [actually] known for its help and its support for the Egyptian people and for the January 25 revolution from its first day until its victory. [Qatar] is also known [for supporting] the various administrations that came after [the revolution in Egypt], until the revolution was sadly eliminated in a military coup that banished and arrested its leaders and youths despite the will of the people and despite the results of the democratic elections that had led to the first ever elected Egyptian president and regime in [Egypt's] history.

"The sentence handed down yesterday sadly proved that the Egyptian justice system has lost its prestige, relinquished its professional honor and become a mouthpiece for the ruler in issuing or canceling sentences. In the age of the coup, the Egyptian justice system has lost all attributes of a fair justice system, which has caused a great outcry and led to the conclusion that this is an invalid, corrupt, and oppressive justice system...

"Sadly, during the coup era, and due to this totalitarian conduct and these arbitrary sentences, Egypt has become a large prison for its people. Many [members of] this suffering and helpless people, including politicians, lawyers, judges, activists, and journalists, have been sent to prison on charges that exist solely in the mind of the regime and of its worn, corrupt justice system, or [charges] manufactured and inflated to eliminate [all dissidents]...

"Everyone knows that Qatar has no connection to this unclear lawsuit... This is a purely political plot, disgraceful, explicit, and baseless...

"We do not rule out the possibility that the [Al-Sisi] coup regime will concoct further allegations against Qatar, even though we do not yet understand why Al-Sisi hates Qatar and resents it...

"Instead of obsessing over Qatar and harassing its citizens... the coup regime should have worked to reconcile with itself, admit its mistakes and the [falsity of] allegations it levels at others based purely on assumptions and without a shred of proof, and understand the danger that its policy brings upon its country. Furthermore, the regime should reconcile with its poor suffering people and work to mend the social fabric with national unity that does not distinguish between elements of society or prefer one over the other...

"We are nearing the day when this regime admits its false claims against Qatar, requests its friendship, and begs for relations with it..."[12]

Al-Sharq Editor: When This Theater Of The Absurd Reaches The Egyptian Justice System - It Is A Disaster

Jaber Al-Harmi, editor of the Qatari daily Al-Sharq, wrote: "Last night, former president Muhammad Mursi was sentenced [to prison] in a false affair known as 'spying for Qatar.' [Mursi was] Egypt's first elected civilian president. The army carried out a coup against him in 2013, one year after he took office, in a plot whose machinations are exposed daily...

"[This] is a despicable farce and a predetermined scenario, with actors called 'judges' who were recruited from elementary schools and placed on the stage - not in the judge's chair, since these chairs are too big for them, and it would be a disgrace for such 'dwarves' to sit in them.

"It is shameful for Egypt that those who rule it today besmirch it and its history with this superficial attitude towards all [other] countries... Shame on those who accuse an elected president who ascended via the ballot boxes of spying for a sister country that stood by the Egyptian people from the first day of the revolution in January 2011...

"[The allegation] of spying for Qatar is a mark of shame upon the brow of the current ruler of Egypt... [This ruler] recruits his mercenary media day and night to deceive the Egyptian people, who suffer greatly in their daily lives, and make them think that this [spying affair] is the most important affair and thus distract them from fateful matters related to the economy, water, corruption, the security that depends on the enemy, and Egypt's declining ratings, especially in the field of education, which place this county at the 139th place out of 140...

"Today, after the military coup led by Al-Sisi - who claimed that he did not want the job, the regime, or even a promotion in rank - Egypt is [not just] entirely dependent on other [countries], but has also been hijacked [from its citizens]. Egypt deserves better than this. If the situation persists, there will be a swift decline in many fields.

"Today Al-Sisi coordinates with Israel [before carrying out] all his military activity against the people of Sinai and using every method of oppression and murder against them... He conspires against Gaza in open coordination with the Israelis and welcomes Israeli delegations 365 days a year. Israeli officials frequently announce that their ties with Egypt have never been better, thanks to President Al-Sisi. And I wonder - who should be on trial? And who is a risk to Egyptian and Arab national security?!

"The first elected president in Egypt's history stands trial on charges of spying for Qatar - how absurd! This is a mark of shame that will continue to haunt the regime, the executive branch, the judicial branch, and those who applaud and the hired mouthpieces.

"Qatar has not been known to conspire against anyone ever, and its past is white as snow, while it is others who besiege Gaza and starve women, children, and elderly to death..."[13]

 

Endnotes:

[1] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5507,  Anticipation In Egypt On The Eve Of The Trial Of Ousted President Muhammad Mursi, November 3, 2013.

[2] Al-Watan (Egypt), June 18, 2016, Al-Ahram (Egypt), June 19, 2016.

[3] Due to internal disputes the MB recently split into two factions: the more moderate stream, called Al-Lajna Al-Idariyya, and the more extremist stream led by MB official Mahmoud 'Ezzat.

[4] Ikhwan.site, ikhwanonline.info, June 18, 2016.

[5] Rassd.com, June 19, 2016.

[6] Al-Sharq (Qatar), June 18, 2016.

[7] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), June 19, 2016.

[8] Rassd.com, June 19, 2016.

[9] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), June 20, 2016.

[10] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), June 19, 2016.

[11] Al-Watan (Egypt), June 19, 2016.

[12] Al-Raya (Qatar), June 20, 2016.

[13] Al-Sharq (Qatar), June 19, 2016.