The plight of the Brotherhood: Actual grounds or propaganda?
Muslim Brotherhood protest in New York - YOUM7 (Archive)
By AMIRA EL-FEKKI

CAIRO: Amid the controversy over the past days following the death penalty of more than 500 Muslim Brotherhood members, the Islamist organization is now seeking international support for alleged human rights abuses against its members by the current regime.

An international delegation supporting the Muslim Brotherhood is seeking to coordinate with international human rights organizations to obtain maximum support from Egyptian communities abroad to express their disapproval of the verdict and take further steps against it, Youm7 reported on Thursday.

“We write to you as the lawyers on behalf of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the Muslim Brotherhood,” six international lawyers stated in a letter addressed to EU High Representative of Foreign Affairs and Security Catherine Ashton, published by the Middle East Monitor on Tuesday.

Referring to the death sentence issued by the Minya Criminal Court on March 24, the lawyers added: “These persons are among the over 20,000 Egyptians who are currently detained throughout Egypt, including President Morsi. They have been detained by the current military regime for exercising their rights to free expression, association and assembly,” calling on Ashton’s speedy action to halt “these sham trials.”

In Egypt, Magdy Qurqur, member of the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL), denied that the alliance has launched or been invited to take part in any international conference or meetings with foreign parties, adding that the alliance’s legislative commission is still examining the case, in a statement to The Cairo Post on Thursday.

“Even if the verdict is not final and will still be subject to appeal, the court’s initial decision provides a negative image of Egypt abroad and opens doors for suspicion on the politicization of the judiciary,” Qurqur explained.

NASL issued a press release on March 25 condemning the court verdict, saying the group rejects unfair trials and flawed judgments. “It is impossible to deal with the verdict from a judicial perspective, as it is more of a political message, which will not affect a revolting people, who are being exterminated.”

However, Salah Abdallah, political analyst and former MP, holds a different opinion, despite admitting that the number of sentenced people was shocking. “The defendants were tried before a regular criminal court. Political trials require exceptional courts, such as the revolutionary courts back in 1952,” Abdallah told The Cairo Post on Thursday.

Another aspect that calls the sentence into question is that there were flaws within the legal procedures of the trial. According to Waleed Farouq, head of the National Association for the Defense of Rights and Freedoms (NADRF), the “court did not provide fair space for defense lawyers’ pleads, but this will be raised during the appeals on the verdict,” Farouq stated to The Cairo Post.

Farouq explained that human rights advocacy should be based on abiding by the law, and that even if the legal procedures of the trial were flawed, this does not exempt the defendants from the crimes they committed.

Then again, the debate on the issue goes beyond the condemnation of that particular case and reveals more about the Muslim Brotherhood strategies, according to human rights defenders in Egypt.

“The MB will make use of this verdict to portray themselves as victims,” said Abdallah, adding that “their popularity and their strong financial lobby in the US and the EU will provide them with a perfect opportunity for aggravating the issue.”

Recently, several rights activists have condemned the lawyers in charge of defending the detained MB members and students. According to Farouq, most MB lawyers request a change in judges at the beginning of any trial, without valid causes. “The MB is promoting their cause at the sake of the defendants’ fates,” he added.

“The trial session might be unfolding normally, when an MB lawyer would shout ‘they are students against the coup’ in the courtroom… Are you trying to have them sent to jail?” Sameh Samir, a rights lawyer at the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights posted on his Facebook account on Wednesday, mocking the lawyers’ lack of professionalism in handling their defendants’ cases.

On the other hand, a pro-MB movement, called “Egyptians around the world for justice and democracy” with an operation in Europe, called on human rights’ protection and the release of detainees, during a press conference in Geneva. Haitham Abu Khalil, head of a human rights center called “Victims,” political expert Hossam al-Shazly, and a number of diplomats and rights organizations concerned with the situation in Egypt were present at the conference, Al-Watan news reported on Tuesday.

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