23 June 2014

Egypt: Analyst - No Appetite for Inclusive Rights in Egypt

Middle East analyst Nezar al-Sayyad said US Secretary of State John Kerry's call on Egypt's new leaders to embrace democracy and press freedom may fall on deaf ears because Egyptians do not seem to be interested.

During his visit to Egypt, Kerry urged Egyptian leaders to uphold the universal rights of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and due process.

But, Al-Sayyad, chair of the University of California Berkeley's Center for Middle Eastern Studies, said there is no appetite in Egypt to include the Muslim Brotherhood at any level of political life.

"I think that the real problem that Secretary Kerry is facing in Egypt right now is the fact that Egyptians are not interested in hearing, particularly from the United States, about freedom of the press, or freedom of expression, or even fair trial, particularly for the Muslim Brotherhood, people that the majority of Egyptians today consider terrorists," he said.

Al-Sayyad also said the US must make it clear to the Egyptian authorities that there are strings attached to restoring aid.

"I do hope that Kerry's message will not totally fall on deaf ears, and it will be understood that, look, while we are restoring military aid, you are still not in our good book yet, and you still have to ensure a return of some of the freedoms," Al-Sayyad said.

An Egyptian court over the weekend confirmed the death sentence for 183 Islamists, including Mohamed Badie, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The court had originally sentenced 683 people to death on charges stemming from the murder and attempted murder of police officers in Minya province last year.

The death sentences from the speedy March trial sparked an international outcry.

Al-Sayyad said the sentences will most likely be reversed and the defendants could possibly receive presidential pardons.

"In fact, if you have been following Egyptian media, there were more than 500 individuals who had been condemned to death, and many of these cases have already come back to court on appeal.

So, it's very clear that the government of Egypt was almost using some of these sentences as a warning, particularly to the Muslim Brotherhood folks that, if you continue to engage in demonstrations, we may use the full force of the law to prosecute you and, in fact, imprison you forever," Al-Sayyad said.


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