Rollback of the Spring

Updated - November 17, 2021 02:11 am IST

Published - April 27, 2015 12:44 am IST

The >conviction of former Egyptian President Mohammad Morsy and his co-defendants by an Egyptian court last week is the first of several verdicts expected in four major criminal cases brought against the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood (the Ikhwan ), which was ousted following the 2013 military coup. Morsy was sentenced to 20 years in prison for inciting riots against protestors outside the presidential palace in December 2012. The protestors were agitating against an order by the President that allowed him to avoid judicial oversight for actions until a new constitutional charter was put in place. There has not been much sympathy for Morsy and his fellow-detainees. The Muslim Brotherhood’s sectarian attempts while in government to radically restructure Egypt’s institutions on Islamist lines had also resulted in protests in 2013 by liberals and secular-minded people. This had ultimately paved the way for the military re-establishing control, with some liberals supporting the move then. Yet, this was unmistakably a coup that overthrew a legitimately elected government. The Freedom and Justice Party affiliated to the Brotherhood had, after all, won the parliamentary and presidential elections held in 2011 and 2012. Since coming to power, the new military government led by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has sought to persecute the movement, slapping case after case on its leaders.

The bulk of those killed during the December 2012 protests were members of the Brotherhood, and it is unclear what happened during that round. It would appear that the cases against Morsy and his associates are politically motivated and meant to get back at the Brotherhood, which had used the post-Arab Spring protests to consolidate itself. Mr. Sisi’s regime is now reminiscent of the Hosni Mubarak dictatorship. The persecution is not limited to the Brotherhood; even the liberals and secular-minded sections of the population that were part of the Spring protests are at the receiving end. There is a clampdown on the media and a crackdown on all dissent. Egypt meanwhile continues to receive military aid from the West and allies such as Saudi Arabia, and it has restored its domestic and foreign policy on lines that existed prior to the Brotherhood’s ascent to power. The Brotherhood’s brief reign in power was problematic. But utilising the opportunity provided by popular protests to revert to a dictatorship has negated all that was achieved during the 2011 ‘Revolution’. Egypt is thus back to square one, and faces an additional problem that could hurt it in the long run — an indignant Brotherhood reeling under repression.

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