Egypt Sends Ousted President Morsi to Third Trial
As Egypt's crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood continues, the charges just keep piling up against former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi. On Saturday, Egypt's prosecutors announced that 130 people, including Morsi, will face trial for breaking out of jail during the uprising against Morsi's predecessor Hosni Mubarak. And Morsi already faces two other charges: last month, the ex-president went on trial for inciting violence last December, and just earlier this week, he was accused of espionage.
This latest case against Egypt's former president accuses Morsi of organizing the jail breakout and abducting police officers during the 18-day-long 2011 uprising, when over 20,000 inmates, including Morsi, escaped from prisons across Egypt. Other accused suspects include Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie, his deputy, and various other Brotherhood officials.
Earlier this week, Morsi was slammed with espionage charges, accused of being part of "the biggest conspiracy" in Egyptian history by spying on Egypt for the Palestinian Islamist organization Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah in order to seize power.
But far from making the Muslim Brotherhood look bad, these latest charges have instead brought an onslaught of criticism directed at the current Egyptian government. One Brotherhood lawyer, Mohammed el-Damati, told the Associated Press that this bombardment of charges is no more than an attempt to "denigrate" Morsi. "Any official, small or big, can be accused of political repression, corruption or killing protesters. But what really demeans any official is to be accused of these baseless crimes that amount to treason," el-Damati said, adding that the aim is simply to discourage pro-Brotherhood supporters.
Human rights groups have echoed el-Damati's sentiments, highlighting the government's continued campaign to de-legitimize the Brotherhood and control the opposition, and even U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expressed concern over the charges against Morsi, making a phone call to Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi on Thursday.
“They [the charges] are pretty fantastical, to say the least,” said the regional director for Human Rights Watch. “Through both legal processes and their control of the media, the government has been trying to generate this notion that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization carrying out violent acts, with the absence of any evidence, and these charges really underscore the extent to which the government is focused on exterminating the Muslim Brotherhood as a political opposition. It is an all-out campaign to destroy it.”
The current government has recently come under fire for passing several draconian laws that severely limit protests, and on Saturday, Human Rights Watch said in a statement that Egypt's security forces are now increasing "their harassment of political activists." One recent raid on the offices of a local human rights organizations ended with one leading activist being arrested and referred to trial.