Egypt’s journey: A rejoinder

April 10, 2017 10:36 pm | Updated 10:36 pm IST

Hatem Tageldin, the Egyptian Ambassador to India, writes:

An Editorial of March 30, headlined “Back to square one”, seemed to overlook the fact that the journey of democracy is a marathon and not a sprint, and that the Egyptian people had in three years witnessed the overthrow of a decades-long dictatorship, the ruling of a theological regime, and a revolution to oust the oligarchy of the Muslim Brotherhood that seemed defiant despite protests by millions of citizens against the increasingly autocratic policies the regime adopted. These people are seriously committed to stay the course to consolidate democracy.

The Editorial mentioned that “though the government… claims the legacy of the 2011 revolution, it took a lenient view of Mubarak-era crimes…”. This conclusion implies a sort of suspicion on the part of the current regime regarding the legitimacy of the revolution because of the President’s military background, and gives little attention to the fact that since 2011 all the criminal charges against Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi have been dealt with by an independent civil judiciary. A final ruling took six years in the case of the former, while the trial goes on in the case of the latter.

The Public Prosecutor, under the interim government of the Military Council, referred Mr. Mubarak and his two sons and a number of officials to stand trial in a criminal court; he was sentenced to imprisonment for life. The Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest court for criminal matters, in January 2013 — during the Muslim Brotherhood regime — cancelled this ruling and acquitted the Minister of Interior of charges. The same court decided to repeat Mr. Mubarak's trials in 2015 under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whereby the court of appeal sentenced him to three years’ imprisonment for embezzlement of public money. Later, in March 2017, the court absolved him of the charge of killing protesters as prosecutors were unable to provide conclusive evidence against him. Likewise, Mr. Morsi is facing several charges, among them over colluding with foreign militants to organise a mass prison breakout in 2011, a case originally initiated by the Public Prosecutor in 2013 when the Muslim Brotherhood regime was in power, and he was sentenced to death in May 2015. The Court of Cassation overturned the sentence and ordered a retrial in 2016. The charges against him and other members of the Muslim Brotherhood are still before the courts, with due respect for the right to a fair trial and due process.

The absence of rallies opposing or supporting the release of Mr. Mubarak, as the Editorial mentions, reflects the public’s belief in the importance of the independence of the judicial authority and the role of democratic institutions in providing checks and balances. It is worth remembering that the political path that Egypt chose since 2013 was agreed upon by the leaders of all the opposition groups representing moderate secular political forces. A road map was set for the transitional period, by which the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court ran the country since July 2013 until the presidential elections in May 2014. A new Constitution was drafted and approved by a referendum, followed by presidential elections in which President al-Sisi won a landslide majority. Lastly, the legislative elections took place in 2015 to ensure full oversight of the government.

Now to look at where Egypt is heading. Economic and political reforms are under way to improve legislation and the political climate to safeguard the freedoms of opinion, expression and assembly. Some 48,000 Egyptian NGOs and about 200 foreign organisations are registered and functioning freely. Efforts are being made to deliver what the revolution of 2011 promised, namely, dignity, liberty, and social justice. Meanwhile, the country faces unprecedented challenges that have emanated from regional instability and the proxy wars some regional powers are waging. This is the reality Egypt faces, and we are determined to tackle all challenges in a manner that would ensure a better future for the coming generations.

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