The UK Telegraph reports that the first of many death sentences handed down after the fall of Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government has been carried out–a hanging. It remains to be seen how many of the hundreds of other potential executions arising from controversial mass trials will be conducted.
Egypt is still restless, with at least one confirmed bomb attack resulting in a fatality on Friday night and another possible bombing in a Cairo suburb on Saturday morning.
This weekend’s hanging involved Mahmoud Ramadan, a Morsi supporter found guilty of throwing 19-year-old Mohammed Badr Al-Din off the top of an apartment building during the 2013 post-coup riots. Ramadan was part of a gang that chased Din and three friends to the top of the building, threw rocks and sticks at them, and wound up shoving two of them off the water tower on top of the building. Unfortunately, Din missed the edge of the roof and went all the way to the ground, later dying in the hospital from his injuries. The incident was captured on a viral video.
While the Telegraph describes Ramadan as a “supporter of Egypt’s ousted President Mohammed Morsi,” International Business Times notes that some footage of the attack on Din and his friends show “what appeared to be an al-Qaeda flag tucked into the back of Ramadan’s trousers.” IBT notes security sources “described Ramadan as a radical Islamist, who was not officially a Muslim Brotherhood member.” Critics of the Brotherhood would say there is a rather fine distinction between generic “radical Islamists,” al-Qaeda sympathizers, and Brotherhood members.
The Brotherhood officially denies involvement in the 18 deaths that resulted from the riots that erupted after Morsi was overthrown. President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who took power after Morsi’s ouster and was eventually elected to his position by popular vote, has outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood, describing it as a terrorist organization. Israel National News reports that “last week, an Egyptian court sentenced top Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including the group’s spiritual leader Mohammed Badie, to life in prison, for the killings of police officers and civilians during an attack on the group’s Cairo headquarters in June 2011.”
The swift mass trials against Brotherhood supporters after the coup have been condemned by several international observers, including the U.S. State Department, which complains that the speedy trials made it difficult for defense lawyers to mount their cases. There have inevitably been accusations that the Sisi government is using the trials to consolidate power and crack down on its opposition; Sisi has responded to these criticisms by insisting that the judiciary is independent of his administration. The government holds the Muslim Brotherhood responsible for most of the terrorist violence that has occurred in Egypt since Morsi’s rise and fall, although other Islamist groups have claimed responsibility for some of the attacks, including the ISIS Egyptian franchise.
A February piece in the L.A. Times put the total number of death sentences resulting from the latest round of mass trials at 183, on top of 220 upheld last year out of a remarkable 1,200 handed down. Given the workings of the Egyptian judicial system, it is unlikely that most of the upheld sentences will result in executions. Even if an abnormally high percentage of these sentences were carried out, Egypt would have a hard time catching up to our partners-in-peace in Iran, which hanged at least 32 prisoners last week.