Home inContext Egyptian Courts Crackdown on Islamist Protesters

Egyptian Courts Crackdown on Islamist Protesters

Michael Johnson

Former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi will go on trial for inciting violence against protesters last year, announced the the country’s top prosecutor earlier this week. The Egyptian Army’s ongoing detention of Morsi, held incommunicado since a coup in early July, shows the military’s renewed willingness to use the judiciary to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Fourteen other co-defendants, including senior Brotherhood figures, will also be charged for provoking violence outside the Presidential Palace last December. At the time, thousands of anti-Morsi demonstrators had gathered near the palace to voice their discontent over a new Islamist-drafted constitution. Morsi asked the Republican Guard and police minister to restore order, but they refused. The president’s aides allegedly enlisted their supporters to break up the sit-ins; Morsi supporters used and firebombs to disrupt the demonstrators, leaving 10 peaceful protesters dead.

Supporters of Mr Morsi have demonstrating on the streets of Cairo. (Photo: AFP)

Similarly, an Egyptian military court in the port city of Suez handed down lengthy sentences earlier this week to Morsi supporters for shooting at Army personnel in August. The court sentenced three conspirators to 15 years in prison and 45 people to five-year terms for involvement in the attack. Eleven other supporter of the Islamist president received life sentences during a previous hearing.

A judicial panel also suggested that an Egyptian court should dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood’s non-governmental organization (NGO) status on Monday. Egypt’s minister in charge of registering NGOs, Ahmed El-Borai, claimed he never received replies from Brotherhood officials after prosecutors accused the organization of possessing firearms in its Cairo offices. The NGO, originally registered in March, gave the brotherhood a formal legal status to operate in the country.

Since the Army began its crackdown on pro-Morsi protesters after the coup in July, civil rights groups estimate the government has arrested up to 8,000 Muslim Brotherhood supporters. More worryingly to Western governments, official figures suggest over 900 people have been killed during the unrest. While the army has cleared the streets of most protesters, the courts will now attempt to provide justice without further bloodshed.