The hanging of six defendants in the Arab Sharkas case, a day after a Cairo court sentenced former president Mohamed Morsi and another 106 people to death, is a clear message by the state indicating that the deposed president can too be executed, lawyer Ahmed Helmy, who was representing some of the Arab Sharkas defendants, tells Mada Masr.
The six men were accused of being part of the militant group formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdes and were sentenced to death last October. As for Morsi and the other defendants, the court handed them a death sentence on charges of espionage and prison break.
But execution in the case of Morsi is considered to have discernible political and security implications. “A decision of the sort is not in the best interest of the country’s security, or the daily life of citizens. It will only open the door to more violence, which will worsen the conflict between both parties,” says Abdel Latif al-Bedeiny, former deputy to the interior minister.
“I do not want to comment on a judicial verdict, but having deceased Palestinians among those convicted raises big question marks,” he adds, commenting on one of the major flaws commonly cited in the case.
Among the Palestinians convicted alongside Morsi are Hassan Salama, a detainee in Israeli prisons since 1996, Tayssir Abou Sneema, killed by Israeli forces in 2009, Hossam al-Sanei, killed in 2008 and Raed al-Attar, founder of the Qassam Brigades, also killed by Israel in the last attack on the Gaza strip.
Ahmed Ban, a researcher on Islamic movements, agrees. “I cannot imagine a sane authority would carry out these verdicts. Taking that step would open the door for a civil war,” he says.
Ban, who was a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, adds that, “Carrying out these verdicts means that we have reached the final stage of the confrontation [between the Brotherhood and the state], which goes against the history of this conflict. The state has always managed to maintain a balance between confrontation and political settlement with the group. Even if the confrontation seems to now be at its peak, there is room for political settlement.”
But Bedeiny blames the escalation in this verdict on the failure of both the Brotherhood and the state to find grounds for reconciliation, especially in the absence of deft political mediation.
In making this claim, Bedeiny also unintentionally points to the politicization of the verdict and the judiciary behind it.
Reflecting on the issue, Ban says, “There is an entity trying to embarrass the state and the executive authority. I do not understand how an individual is acquitted from charges of espionage and then sentenced to death because he escaped from prison during a revolution. There seems to be an entity trying to pressure the state to gain or maintain power,” he adds, in an elusive reference to the judiciary and the security apparatus.
Morsi was sentenced to death on charges of prison escape. He was never sentenced in the espionage case.