Egypt started last Monday the second trial of a deposed president in a little over two years. Although Mubarak’s trial had a clear political component, it was not as obvious as in Morsi’s. In fact, it is hard to argue otherwise with a straight face. And this is why.
To begin with, it does not seem to be any clear evidence against Morsi, who is accused on inciting the killing of demonstrators on December 5th 2012. That evening, hundreds of pro and anti-Morsi supporters clashed near the Palace of Ittihadiya. At least 8 people were killed, 600 injured, some of them after being tortured by Islamist gangs.
According to a leak to Al-Masry al-Ium, the “evidence” against Morsi are 15 videos with the violent scenes of that day and the testimony of Ahmed Jamal El-Din, minister of Interior at the time, and general Mohamed Zaki, director of the Republican Guard. Both men argue that Morsi told them to clear out by force the sit-in organized by his opponents if front of the Palace. They both rejected to carry out the orders out of fear that it would require a lot of violence. According, to the prosecution, Morsi would have then ordered his followers to clear out the sit-in themselves.
Maybe the prosecution has another evidence that has not been leaked, but that seems unlikely. In order to prove that Morsi ordered himself the attack against the demonstrators it is not enough with the statement of the minister of Interior saying that he was asked to clear out the sit-in. It would be necessary the testimony of the Muslim Brotherhood leader who allegedly received the orders from Morsi.
Unless the intelligence services were spying on Morsi, it is hard to imagine how the prosecution will obtain that proof. None of Morsi’s assistants will betray him and declare against him in court. We all know how the Brotherhood is a close-knit group. And even if the intelligence services recorded the conversation, it would be an illegal act, so invalid as a proof in a court. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that Morsi’s responsibility in the events in Ittihadiya is proved.
But the charges against Morsi become more ridiculous when we have a look at the recent history of the country. He is accused of ordering to clear out a sit-in by force. Well, how many sit-ins and demonstrations were cleared out by force during the rule of the SCAF’s generals? Too many to count. And anyone remembers what happened in Rabaa al-Awdawiya three months ago? In the Ittihadiya clashes, ten people died at most -half of them belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood, by the way. In Rabaa, hundreds were killed. Will anyone be also judged for those deaths?
To add insult to injury, Morsi is charged for doing the same thing the current government wants to enshrine in the new demonstration law, its most important and controversial legislative project. Among other things, the draft forbids the sit-ins and the demonstrations up to 300 meters from official buildings. Anti-Morsi protesters were camping literally at the gates of the palace of Ittihadiya.
Any serious effort to judge Morsi can only happen in the framework a transitional justice program that would include the crimes and abuses committed by the political leaders in the last years. And that would include the members of SCAF and the current leadership.
I am afraid that Egypt is heading in the wrong direction, no matter how many people cheer the current rulers in the streets or the social media. This country will only thrive when all the main political actors are able to agree on a set of fair rules to govern the country. The attempts to exclude any side, or impose the will of a segment of the population on the others will backfire, and bring more suffering to the whole society. Instead of political trials, Egypt needs a shared political vision.
PD: Given the current atmosphere, unfortunately, it seems necessary to state something I said in previous posts: I think that Morsi’s rule was terrible, and the fact that Egypt is not in a better place now does not absolve him and his political party from the too many mistakes they committed.