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Kiriakou writes: "We Americans are going to have to make a decision. Either we want to be that beacon of hope on human rights that we're always bragging we are, or we don't. We can't be both."

The courtroom and soundproof dock at the Rabaa mass trial. (photo: Mohamed El-Shahed/AFP/Getty Images)
The courtroom and soundproof dock at the Rabaa mass trial. (photo: Mohamed El-Shahed/AFP/Getty Images)

Egypt Is a Powder Keg

By John Kiriakou, Reader Supported News

11 September 18


n Egyptian court this week sentenced 75 members of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to death for participating in a protest against military efforts to overthrow the democratically elected government of MB member and Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi in 2013. The 75 were charged en masse with murder, incitement to break the law, membership in a banned group, and participating in an illegal gathering. Most of those killed in the protest were other Muslim Brotherhood members, and violence was initiated by the military and police. Amnesty International called the trial and sentencing “a grotesque parody of justice.”

Morsi was a minor politician and MB member in 2012 when the group’s preferred candidate for president was stricken from the ballot on a technicality. He reluctantly took over leadership of the MB and stood as the group’s candidate for president. Just three years earlier, Egyptians had overthrown the corrupt rule of Hosni Mubarak, and popular demonstrations led to what ended up being free and fair elections. Many Egyptians were tired of corruption, inflation, poverty, and the military’s heavy hand. Morsi won a convincing victory on June 30, 2012.

One of Morsi’s first visitors after his election was Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry said that he could work with Morsi and that the US-Egypt relationship would remain unchanged. (Indeed, Morsi committed to maintaining the bilateral economic and military relationship and to the status quo on relations with Israel.) That’s wasn’t good enough for Egypt’s generals, though, and the country quickly entered into a constitutional crisis.

On June 30, just one year after he became president, the military demanded that Morsi resign. His supporters began a pro-Morsi sit-in in Cairo’s Rabaa Square on that same day. Morsi refused to resign, and on July 1 the military issued a 48-hour ultimatum – resign or be overthrown. Again Morsi refused. On July 2, Morsi announced a “reconciliation plan” for the country. But 24 hours later, on July 3, 2013, he was overthrown by General Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi, arrested, and charged with a wide variety of crimes, including murder, espionage, and “insulting the judiciary.” He was sentenced to death, but the sentence was overturned on appeal. Morsi is awaiting retrial, but has been in prison since his overthrow.

In the meantime, Sisi didn’t stop with just Morsi’s overthrow. His police and military attacked pro-Morsi demonstrators in Rabaa Square and killed 871 people, according to Human Rights Watch. Almost every person killed was a Morsi supporter. But that didn’t prevent the new military government from charging 739 Morsi supporters with major crimes coming out of the sit-in’s breakup. In the end, 75 people were sentenced to death, including MB leader Essam el-Errian, parliamentarian Muhammad el-Beltagy, and Morsi’s Minister of Youth Osama Yassin; MB Supreme Leader Muhammad Badie and 46 others received sentences of life without parole; 374 defendants received 15 years; Morsi’s son Osama and 22 others received 10 years; and 215 defendants, including a photojournalist working for a British outlet and arrested for doing his job, were sentenced to five years.

Egyptian law says that no criminal defendant can be held in custody awaiting trial for more than 24 months. All of the Rabaa defendants had been held for 62 months with no recourse. Furthermore, the entire process was corrupt because the defendants were not allowed to present evidence (much of which was on video from news networks) showing that none of them had killed anybody; it was the police and military doing the killing.

The entire event cries for Egypt to abolish the death penalty. It won’t do that, of course, even though it is clear that the punishment is used for political reasons, and especially to crush the MB.

Human Rights Watch probably said it best in its 2017 report on Egypt entitled “We Do Unreasonable Things Here: Torture and National Security in Sisi’s Egypt”: “Sisi’s pursuit of political stability at any cost ... is perpetuating the same abuses that fueled the 2011 uprising.”

Egypt is a powder keg. And the fault lies partly with Washington. It was Barack Obama who looked the other way when Egypt went fascist with Sisi’s coup. It was Donald Trump who continued this failed policy. And people are dying because of it, whether in demonstrations attacked by the police and military or under the guise of “justice” on the Egyptian gallows.

We Americans are going to have to make a decision. Either we want to be that beacon of hope on human rights that we’re always bragging we are, or we don’t. We can’t be both. We can’t be in bed with murderous fascists and dictators because they buy our weapons or kowtow to our foreign policy and then tell the press and the United Nations how concerned we are about human rights. It’s a lie that just about everybody around the world can see through. If we’re going to right US foreign policy, we should start with Egypt and Sisi. We should go on record that these trials and sentences are unacceptable. We should end aid and military sales to Egypt until the government there cleans up its act. And there should be no military sales at all until Egypt can prove that it respects the human rights of all its citizens.

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John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act – a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration's torture program.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner
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