Police fired canisters of tear gas into crowds of protesters in Alexandria on November 1. Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood took to the streets ahead of the trial for ousted President Mohammed Morsi. Waves of fresh protests across Egypt are disputing the removal of the president in a military coup this summer. Sixty protesters were arrested in clashes with police in Alexandria as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited the Middle Eastern country.
Morsi, the first democratically elected president of Egypt since the Arab Spring revolt, was deposed by the military on July 3. NPR reports that the trial has become a rallying point for supporters of the president. Among the charges filed against Morsi by the military regime include “inciting violence and complicity in the deaths of protesters” says NPR. Fourteen other senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood are also standing trial with Morsi. If found guilty, he could face life in prison or even the death penalty.
“A lot of Egyptians feel pity for Morsi, even people who like Sisi,” Ahmed Shabani, a Muslim Brotherhood supporter, told The Guardian. “We know he was just a pawn for the Brotherhood, an engineering professor who became the president. And now he’s probably going to be sentenced to life.”
Morsi’s ouster in July was the start of a strict crackdown on the Brotherhood and a turning point for U.S.-Egypt relations. While the United States has not officially declared the move a coup, it did freeze $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt. Despite the chill in the relationship between Cairo and Washington, Secretary Kerry visited Egypt in early November as part of a tour of the Middle East.
Kerry affirmed that the U.S. still considered Egypt a vital ally. He stressed that the decision to suspend military aid was “not a punishment,” reports The Washington Post.
“President Obama has actually worked very, very hard to be able to make certain that we’re not disrupting the relationship with Egypt,” Kerry told a news conference following a meeting with the interim government’s foreign minister, Nabil Fahmy. Kerry also stressed that the United States found the crackdown on protesters and arrests of Muslim Brotherhood leaders unacceptable.
There are signs that the military is making good on it promises to return the nation to democratic governance. A committee is currently at work writing a new constitution, but they are under pressure from the military to include extraordinary prosecution powers for the army as it continues to battle militants. A final draft of the constitution is expected by December 3.
The stability of the nation may hang on the outcome of Morsi’s trial. For decades under the authoritarian Mubarak regime, Egypt was held in the iron fist of a police state. The justice system has been widely criticized by Egyptians and outsiders alike. In his visit to Cairo, Kerry did not directly address the Morsi trial, but did ask Egyptian leaders to provide fair trials for all of its citizens.
“The United States believes that the U.S.-Egypt partnership is going to be stronger when Egypt is represented by an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government based on rule of law, fundamental freedoms and an open and competitive economy,” Kerry told the BBC.
By Jonny Eberle – Grey Cell Staff Writer