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Three trials ahead for Morsi as Brotherhood’s support falls in Egypt

Barely six months after his downfall, Egypt’s former president Mohammed Morsi is facing three trials on a wide range of charges, as support for his former party, the Muslim Brotherhood, dries up. Youssef Hamza reports from Cairo
IEgypt’s former president Mohammed Morsi is facing three trials on a wide range of charges, many of which carry the death penalty. Maya Alleruzzo / AP
IEgypt’s former president Mohammed Morsi is facing three trials on a wide range of charges, many of which carry the death penalty. Maya Alleruzzo / AP

CAIRO // Barely six months after his downfall, Egypt’s former president Mohammed Morsi is facing three trials on a wide range of charges, many of which carry the death penalty.

The Islamist leader, who was removed from power by the military after vast protests against his rule, went on trial in November for inciting murder. His next hearing will take place in January.

Since November he has been referred to two separate trials for conspiring with and passing sensitive information to two militant groups — the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanon’s Hizbollah — and for his escape from prison during the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak.

No date has been set for the other two trials and more legal proceedings against Mr Mr Morsi are expected as prosecutors continue to examine his conduct during 12 months in office.

The trials, which also involve dozens of Brotherhood leaders as co-defendants, are being prepared as the crackdown by the military-backed government against the Islamist group continues, with thousands already detained and more than a 1,000 killed in security operations since July.

The multitude of trials reflects the resolve of Egypt’s rulers to dismantle the Muslim Brotherhood so thoroughly that it will not rise again, at least not in the near future, as a potent political force.

The charges facing Mr Morsi and the Brotherhood leaders in the three trials combine to paint a picture of a leadership that was only interested in promoting the cause of their own movement and cementing their hold on power, even at the expense of innocent lives or the nation’s security.

While sending Mr Morsi or Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie and his deputy Khairat El Shater to the gallows may be a bold and somewhat risky move, sentencing them to long jail terms could deal the entire organisation a devastating blow that would cripple it for years to come.

Most of the group’s top leaders are already in jail along with its midlevel officials and thousands of local and regional operatives from across Egypt.

However, the prediction that the Brotherhood can be eradicated has its fair share of sceptics.

The Brotherhood has spent most of the 85 years since its creation as an underground organisation. It has spend decades honing its survival tactics and became skilled at collecting membership fees and donations. Its hard-core members are disciplined, follow orders without question and turn out for elections in droves.

With the backing of Turkey and the financial muscle of Qatar, the Brotherhood can afford to remain in the fight for years.

As an outlawed group during Mubarak’s 29 years in office it had fielded candidates in elections for parliament and in labour unions as “independents”, thus ensuring representation while not breaking the law. Already, its members conceal their links to the group, disguising themselves as “defenders of legitimacy” — a reference to Mr Morsi’s election victory and the referendum that adopted an Islamist-tilted constitution in 2012 — to avoid the continuing crackdown.

University protesters calling for the return of “legitimacy” avoid mention of the Brotherhood in their slogans in a bid to give the impression of a nationwide movement.

However, despite the Brotherhood’s discipline and its well-oiled money machine, the group has steadily lost much of the support it once had outside its ranks of hard-core members since Mr Morsi was removed from power.

Near daily protests by Mr Morsi’s supporters have often ended in clashes with security forces and just as frequently with ordinary Egyptians fed up with the demonstrations or opposed to the Brotherhood.

A series of well publicised assaults, deadly in some cases, by Brotherhood members against supporters of the military and its chief, General Abdel Fattah El Sisi, has also turned the tide against the group. With a media loyal to the military and steadfastly opposed to the Brotherhood, the group has been cast as a foreign-backed terrorist organisation determined to undermine security, charges that have cost the movement the sympathy it once enjoyed from the public.

With most Egyptians craving for stability and economic recovery after three years of turmoil, the Brotherhood’s campaign to prevent the country from returning to normality is costing it even more from non-Islamists.

Furthermore, the Brotherhood-inspired criticism of the military and Gen El Sisi on social networks and on TV networks loyal to the group are widely taken as an unforgivable insult to what most Egyptians see as their strongest and most reliable institution, the army.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae

Updated: December 25, 2013 04:00 AM

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