Sentences issued against 22 members of the Muslim Brotherhood group were suspended by the Cassation Court on Tuesday. Defendants, including former President Mohamed Morsi and Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, were accused of espionage with the Palestinian Hamas group. The court ordered a retrial before a criminal court in a new constituency.
The verdict suspended life sentences issued against Morsi, Badie and Brotherhood leaders Saad al-Katatny and Essam al-Erian. Death sentences against Khairat al-Shater, Mohamed al-Beltagy, Ahmed Abdel Aty and 13 others were also overturned.
The defendants faced charges of exchanging intelligence information with foreign entities, leaking state secrets and collaborating with local and international jihadist organizations to carry out terrorist operations inside the country, according to the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm.
The Cassation Court also suspended a death sentence issued against Morsi and other defendants implicated in the prison break case in mid-November. They were charged with orchestrating a large-scale prison break during the January 25 revolution.
The suspension of Morsi’s sentences comes in the wake of proposals by some Muslim Brotherhood leaders to reach a rapprochement with the Egyptian state.
In an interview with Arabi21 on Saturday, the group’s vice Supreme Guide Ibrahim Mounir called on the “wise” citizens of Egypt and the world to “paint a clear picture for reconciliation between the different players in the Egyptian crisis, for the sake of achieving peace and security for the entire Egyptian nation, without deceiving the public.”
He stated: “We have learned from our religion, and we believe in what God said in the Quran: If they resort to peace, so shall you.”
Another camp within the Muslim Brotherhood, at odds with Mounir’s approach, has denied any attempts to reach a reconciliation deal with the government.
However, the privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper reported that Saudi-based Brotherhood leaders said: “There are attempts to shake the stagnation of the current relationship between the Egyptian government and the Brotherhood.”
They told Al-Shorouk that the deal would require the Brotherhood to freeze all political activity for a five-year period, and cease any criticism of government, without directly acknowledging the current regime’s legitimacy. In return, the government would release all prisoners and allow the group’s fugitives to return home.
According to rights lawyer Negad al-Borai, the Cassation Court’s suspension of Morsi’s sentences has nothing to do with speculations about a reconciliation deal.
He told Mada Masr: “A reconciliation agreement could not be reached between the state and the Brotherhood so long as President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is in office. Sisi is building his political regime on the basis that he saved the country from the Brotherhood’s rule.”
Borai asserted that the recent verdicts are instead a result of the harsh sentences issued by Egypt’s criminal courts who want to “give a hard time” to the group, often leading to the suspension of these verdicts by the Cassation Court.
The Cassation Court’s decision to uphold a 20-year prison sentence against Morsi, which is a final verdict, contradicts the notion that there is a relationship between its verdicts and rumors of a reconciliation.
The court upheld a 20-year prison sentence against Morsi and six other Muslim Brotherhood leaders implicated in the Ettehadiya Palace clashes case in late October.
The Cassation Court is an appellate court that looks into the procedures of the trial and ensure the proper implementation of the law. If an appeal is accepted, as with Tuesday’s verdict, the Cassation Court refers the case to a criminal court in a new constituency. If this court’s verdict is again challenged and the Cassation Court accepts the appeal, it engages with the trial, looking into the case itself and investigating evidence and testimonies to issue a final verdict, as in the Ettehadiya Palace clashes case.