Death sentence to Morsi will make everything worse

Death sentence to Morsi will make everything worse

The death sentence given to Egypt’s toppled former president on May 16 is not only wrong, but also likely to make everything in the Middle East even worse.

Apart from the fact that the death sentence - which is irreversible regardless of mistakes - should have no place in modern legal systems, the sentence is wrong and likely to make everything worse for a few other reasons.

Mohamad Morsi was the first elected leader of the 1,000-year-old Egyptian culture. The toppling of Morsi in 2013 through a coup led by his Defense Minister General Abdel Fettah el-Sisi, after only a year in power, already gave the wrong message to Egypt and all other Arab societies: That democratic rule through free elections was not for them.

After toppling and putting Morsi behind bars and sentencing him to 20 years in jail on April 21 over the killing of protesters in 2012, he has now been sentenced to death over a prison break in 2011. His predecessor Hosni Mubarak had to resign due to the Tahrir protests in the same year. The impression is that Egypt’s courts are today functioning like a revenge tool for current President el-Sisi against his predecessor.

Morsi’s election as Egypt’s president was a chance for the entire Arab world to achieve a normalization of political life and a moderation of radical political movements like the Muslim Brotherhood, to which Morsi belonged. Right after Morsi’s ousting from power and the Brotherhood’s denunciation as an outlawed group, the rise of terrorist actions by groups with links to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) became a matter of concern not only for Egypt but for the entire Middle East.

It is almost like what happened in Turkey in 1960 repeated itself in Egypt in 2015. Back in 1960, the military, claiming support from certain opposition forces, toppled the elected government and executed the former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, as well as his foreign and finance ministers. (This is why the Egypt case makes Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan so nervous; he has emphasized that Morsi – like himself in 2014 - was elected with 52 percent of the votes.) The 1960 coup in Turkey ended up solving nothing, even for those who sympathized with it as an expression of an immature understanding of a fledgling democracy. It was followed by two more military coups in Turkey and played a role in the country’s lagging behind in democratic, social and economic terms; perhaps the main reason for Turkey’s non-integration with the European Union.

Equally tragic is the silent approval of what has been happening in Egypt by the West. The U.S. State Department issued a clichéd “deeply concerned” statement and, as of Sunday evening, no official statement had been made by the EU. In fact, the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) rating agency upgraded Egypt’s economic outlook to “positive,” though it is not clear whether the el-Sisi regime will even be able to pay civil servants’ next salaries. The encouragement by the West of all the wrongdoings of a leading Arab government gives all possible wrong signals to others: Bow before your Western-backed rulers.

It is obvious that what has been happening in Egypt is not independent of what has been happening in the greater Middle East for some time, also part of the greater picture of nuclear talks with Iran and Washington’s outreach to Tehran, partly to decrease pressure on Israel. It is no coincidence that Morsi’s steps for reconciliation with Iran made Saudi Arabia uncomfortable, which was one of the motivating forces behind el-Sisi’s toppling of him. 

To turn a blind eye to the wrongdoings of Egypt could be in the interests of the U.S. and the EU today, but in the long run it might turn into another nightmare - as in the cases of Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria.