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Inside Story

Egypt: A case of selective justice?

As an Egyptian court sentences 12 pro-Morsi protesters to 17 years in prison, we ask what is behind the verdict.

Last updated: 16 Nov 2013 16:24
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Selective justice is no justice at all - that is the message from human rights groups, who are increasingly critical of Egypt's interim government.

Thousands of people have been arrested and hundreds killed since Mohamed Morsi was deposed in July. Many people have been treated unfairly, including in military tribunals.

In the latest case, an Egyptian court sentenced 12 students to 17 years in prison each. They were arrested for taking part in protests in October that resulted in an attack inside the al-Azhar University in Cairo. The verdict has been described as unfairly harsh.

This case sums up everything that is wrong with the human rights situation in Egypt today … It took prosecutors just less than two weeks to close the file on students but it has taken them more than three months to deliver accountability for the protesters killing in Rabaa al-Adawiya .... I think unless we see some real moves towards truth and justice soon it's looking increasingly like it's one law for the supporters of Mohamed Morsi and one law for supporters of the interim parties.

Nicholas Piachaud, a campaigner for the North Africa team at Amnesty International

"One of them is my friend and colleague and he has been accused of violent photography … I have never heard of this; 17 years and 64,000 Egyptian pounds … I don't know how they can do it. It's an unjust verdict," Youssof Salehine, member of the students union at al-Azhar University, told Al Jazeera.

Egypt's interim government has grown more intolerant of dissent since Mohamed Morsi was deposed.

Thousands of his supporters have been arrested or detained in the last few months and a number of people have been tried under military tribunals, including three journalists.

Critics say the government has failed to investigate the deaths of protesters or hold perpetrators accountable.

Syrian refugees have been forced to return home and at least 1,500 Syrians are being held indefinitely in Egyptian jails.

The fairness of Mohamed Morsi's trial too has been called into question. Lawyers were barred from seeing Morsi before the trial began and only given access to important documents at the last minute.

Morsi says he was kidnapped by the military but remains Egypt's president. Morsi called on all Egyptians to "stand up firm, realising this coup is a crime, an act of treason."

He also paid tribute to what he called the "martyrs and victims of ongoing attacks and clashes throughout the country since the coup."

"It's sad. Cleary a 17-year sentence on any student is harsh. But again when we look at it, Egypt now has entered the situation where supremacist religious bodies like the Muslim Brotherhood are willing to use supporters as cannon fodder. And they are more than happy to push them into acts that have legal consequences .... You see Mohamed Morsi's statement which he made yesterday talking about how the pure blood of the martyrs is going to pay the way forward. That's almost incitement. It shows the man is completely detached from reality," said Hisham Kassem, a journalist and democracy activist.

So what is really behind the latest court verdict? Could it stop others from protesting?

To discuss this, Inside Story presenter Jane Dutton is joined by guests: Nicholas Piachaud, a campaigner for the North Africa team at Amnesty International; Tarek Radwan, the associate director for research at the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center; and Hisham Kassem, a journalist and democracy activist.

"It is extremely difficult for any objective voice in the media to actually come forward. In this hyper-nationalist climate that we have there is simply no room for these middle-of-the-road voices. This false binary that has been presented to the Egyptian people is you are either with us or you are against us and so if you speak against the interim government you are a Brotherhood supporter or a fifth columnist."

Tarek Radwan, an associate director for research at the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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