Egypt: prison sentence for Mohamed Morsi comes after sham trial

Riot police dispersing student supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi last year © AFP/Getty Images
‘This verdict shatters any remaining illusion of independence and impartiality in Egypt’s criminal justice system’ - Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui
 
The sentencing of Mohamed Morsi to 20 years in prison earlier today is a travesty of justice and demonstrates that the Egyptian criminal justice system appears to be completely incapable of delivering fair trials for members or supporters of the former president's administration and the Muslim Brotherhood, said Amnesty International.
 
Amnesty is calling for Mohamed Morsi to receive a fair re-trial in a civilian court in line with international standards, or to be released. Meanwhile, Mr Morsi is also facing a number of other charges in four other trials. 
 
Morsi was convicted of “inciting violence” and detaining and torturing opposition protesters during clashes between his supporters and opponents outside the Federal Palace in Cairo in December 2012. He and 14 others - many of whom are members or leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood or its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party - had faced a catalogue of charges that included “murder”, “incitement to murder”, “violence” as well as “thuggery”, “spreading rumours to disturb the work of judicial institutions” and “threatening civilians”.  
 
Even before he appeared in court Morsi’s prospects for a fair trial were deeply compromised. For months after he was ousted on 3 July 2013, security forces detained Morsi and his aides incommunicado in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance.  During this period, he was questioned by prosecutors without a lawyer present, violating his rights under Egypt’s constitution and international law to challenge the legality of his detention and to an adequate defence. His legal team were only able to obtain a copy of the 7,000-page case file after making a substantial payment just days before the trial began on 4 November 2013. 
 
Amnesty also documented several irregularities during the trial itself. During the first hearing - on 4 November 2013 - the authorities barred several members of Morsi’s defence team from attending. The leading defence lawyer was only allowed to meet with Morsi after the trial began.
 
Investigations by the Public Prosecution into the December 2012 clashes between Morsi supporters and opponents outside the Federal Palace in Cairo were also neither independent nor impartial. The Public Prosecution’s case focused entirely on abuses by his supporters, while ignoring violence by their opponents. Amnesty’s own research into the violence suggests that while supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood did commit human rights abuses, most of those killed during the clashes were actually supporters of the then-president.
 
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:
 
“This verdict shatters any remaining illusion of independence and impartiality in Egypt’s criminal justice system.
 
“Any semblance of a fair trial was jeopardised from the outset by a string of irregularities in the judicial process and his arbitrary, incommunicado detention. His conviction must be quashed and the authorities must order a full re-trial in a civilian court or release him.
 
“Convicting Mohamed Morsi, despite fundamental flaws in the legal process and what seems to be at best flimsy evidence produced in court under a gag order, utterly undermines this verdict.”
 

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