The death sentence on Morsi’s supporters

The death sentence passed on March 24, 2014 on 528 supporters of former Egyptian President, Mohammed Morsi, came as a shock to many people around the world. Morsi himself is also in detention, undergoing trial for ordering the killing of demonstrators.The 528 death sentences are not the only death sentences to be passed on supporters of the former president.

It is expected that the number will increase by the time the more than 1,000 persons standing trial get sentenced by the court. The trial and death sentences have drawn condemnation from the United Nations and international human rights bodies. It is the largest single death sentence passed anywhere in the world and it shows the extent of animosity between the military-backed government in Cairo, and supporters of the deposed president.

It is unlikely that the interim government will carry out the sentences as the latter can be appealed. We urge the relevant authorities to overturn the sentences on appeal. Given its speed and the absence of defence lawyers, the trial cannot be said to be fair; it is a re-affirmation of the fact that the military- backed government has triumphed over its opponents in the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Most of those on trial and condemned to death were members of the once-popular Muslim Brotherhood which sponsored the Peace and Justice party on which platform Morsi came to office. The convicted men were alleged by the prosecutor to have killed a policeman during riots that followed the ouster of Morsi. The question to be asked is whether it makes sense for hundreds of men to be put to death for the death of one law officer.

It is clear that the main reason for the convictions were the men belonged to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, and that as long as the organisation remains at odds with the present authority in Egypt, they cannot expect to get gentle treatment.Second, the Egyptian government is not happy with the Muslim Brotherhood which it has blamed for most of the violence, attempted assassinations and killings of government officials including security personnel.

Third, the government blames the outlawed group for masterminding regular anti-government protests, demanding the release of Morsi and his return to power. Morsi would not be returned to power and the Cairo government is not ready to negotiate this matter. In fact, the dramatic death sentences and the hundreds more that will follow is designed to underline this fact. It is also intended to warn opponents of government that the latter is determined to go on with a political transition programme that includes a new Constitution and fresh elections.
While it is the duty of every government to ensure order and deal with perceived threat to its authority and the well-being of the country, we urge the Egyptian authorities to temper justice with mercy in the way it treats members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

There is urgent need for government to reach some accommodation and understanding with this group and other opposition groups in the country to ensure success of the on-going political transition programme in the country. Government owes the generality of Egyptians a duty to ensure that peace reigns in the country and that all social and political forces cooperate for the good of the nation.Also, the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood owes itself and its followers a duty to shun confrontation with government and respect the laws of the country. This way, it could restore its image as a peaceful and reliable organisation ready to return to reckoning in the affairs of the Egyptian nation.

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