Another Staggering Death Sentence

Egyptian judge Saed Youssef, who infamously sentenced 529 people to death last month for their alleged roles in the death of one police officer, outdid himself yesterday when he condemned another 682 defendants, including Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, to hang for the same crime:

Those found guilty have been charged with contributing to the death of a police officer during a raid on a police station in August. But their individual crimes were all relatively minor, like committing acts of violence or inciting violence, and none of the 683 was charged with participating in the officer’s murder. Badie, in fact, was advocating for nonviolence during the tumultuous aftermath of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster.

Badie also happened to be in a different city during the incident. … The trial itself lasted a matter of minutes, and most of the accused were tried in absentia.

Bel Trew looks at Youssef’s record:

Judge Youssef first rose to prominence in 2012 when he took over the second district of the criminal court in his hometown of Beni Suef, some 100 kilometers north of Minya. It was there he earned the nickname “The Butcher” for bending the law with his notoriously harsh verdicts:

He once sentenced a man to 40 years in jail for possessing a gun. “He gave him 15 years for the weapon, 15 years for the bullets, then 10 years for getting into the gunfight,” said lawyer Mohamed El-Zanaty, based in Beni Suef, who has worked extensively in Youssef’s courtrooms.

But Youssef only gained international notoriety last year, when he acquitted the area’s security chief and 10 of his policemen accused of killing protesters on January 28, 2011, dubbed the “Friday of Rage,” one of the bloodiest moments of the 18-day uprising that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak.

Karl Vick notes that this level of judicial complicity in oppression is unprecedented in the country:

During the rule of President Hosni Mubarak and his predecessors, Anwar Sadat and Gamal Abdel Nasser, “the judiciary sometimes acted as a brake on the government’s most authoritarian impulses,” Nathan J. Brown and Michelle Dunne of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace recently wrote, “Now, all the instruments of the Egyptian state seem fully on board. Whereas Nasser had to go to the trouble of setting up kangaroo courts, today there is no need.” Judges have outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian militant group Hamas, and now the liberal April 6 Movement, named for the date of a planned 2008 public strike in an industrial town that grew into a nationwide protest movement.

The editors at Bloomberg decry the direction Egypt is headed in and say it’s time to cut off the aid:

Egypt’s government says about 500 people have been killed in terrorist attacks since the coup, mainly security personnel. That violence flared in response to draconian policies that offered Islamists no peaceful avenue. Previous attempts to crush the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, notably under President Gamal Abdel Nasser, failed miserably. [Yesterday’s] death sentence against the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, which claims membership of up to a quarter of Egypt’s population, will further aid recruitment for radical Islamist groups that preach violence. …

Al-Seesi’s Egypt is measurably more bloody and repressive than either the Muslim Brotherhood government it replaced or any of Egypt’s previous dictatorships. It’s not enough for the U.S. to merely condemn the mass trials. If the U.S. truly supports the spread of democracy and individual rights in the Middle East, as it claims, then it cannot provide the means to suppress them.