analysisBy Simon Allison
An Egyptian court has sentenced 529 men to death for murdering one policeman in protests last year. It might seem absurd, but there is reason behind this madness. Without any real legitimacy of its own, the credibility of Egypt's military government depends on 'protecting' the nation from the evils of Islamic terrorism. And if it can't find any terrorists, it must create them.
Egyptians are famous in the Arab world for their sharp, often dark, sense of humour. No matter how bad things get - and things have become really, really bad at times over the last few years - someone will, inevitably, crack a joke to relieve the tension, and throw into stark, unforgiving relief the sheer absurdity of their situation.
This week gave the country perhaps the most absurd decision of them all, when a court - presided over by a judge whose name, all too appropriately, translates as The Butcher - sentenced 529 men to death for the murder of a single police officer in August last year. The court took just two sessions to reach this verdict. The defendants, all 529 of them, were not asked to present their version of events.