Democracy is futile
The vengeful Egyptian judiciary has outdone even itself with its death sentence against the deposed, democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi. The ruling is just one in a whole series of mass death sentences.
Together with 106 other Muslim Brotherhood leaders, members of the Palestinian Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah, Morsi was sentenced to death by hanging. Amnesty International's denunciation of the trial, which was based on an alleged prison break, as a disgrace that has nothing to do with a procedure based on the rule of law, is almost putting it mildly.
Some of the Hamas members who were sentenced in absentia are already dead. In fact some of them were no longer living at the time of the alleged offence. So now Egyptian courts are condemning dead people to death. That's about all one has to know about the working methods of the public prosecutor's office and the court to be able to assess the professionalism with which the trial was carried out.
Perhaps it is worth noting however, just to make our picture of the Egyptian justice system complete, that the minister of the interior and the security chief from the Mubarak era are still at large, as are Mubarak's corrupt cronies from Egypt's business world. The old regime has thus been acquitted while members of the Muslim Brotherhood are sentenced to death. There is evidently a system behind it all.
The final word has not yet been spoken
Now the files on the condemned members of the Muslim Brotherhood will be referred to the country's Grand Mufti for his opinion. The historical irony here is that the very mufti who is now being asked to sign off on Morsi's death sentence has the former president to thank for his post. The story bears all the marks of a Shakespeare play translated into tragic reality.
The court will make its final decision on 2 June. But that will not be the end of the court saga surrounding Morsi, who will still have the option of appealing the verdict.
An escalation in the bomb attacks in Egypt and perhaps also protests on the street can be expected in reaction to the verdict, although President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and his security apparatus have shown in the last few months that they are more than capable of cracking down on citizens to keep the peace.
Arguably the most problematic aspect of the verdict is the dangerous message it sends out to the Islamists, namely look what happens when you try to participate in the democratic process! What political conclusions are likely to be drawn by young members of the Muslim Brotherhood? Do they still feel well represented by the Muslim Brotherhood? The jihadists of Islamic State are probably rubbing their hands in glee and waiting to welcome the disenchanted with open arms.
Arab autocrats as guarantors of stability?
And what about the West? The leaders there are making the same mistake they made in the decades preceding the Arab uprisings, namely that they are relying on repressive regimes to guarantee stability. These regimes hijacked the Arab revolutions, often converting them into civil war, so that they could make the revolution responsible for the ensuing chaos and stage themselves as saviours. It worked like a dream.
As always, the autocrats in the Gulf are still being courted by the West. Someone like Sisi is accorded respect in European capitals. Even the mass murderer Assad is now secretly regarded as the better alternative.
The West keeps falling into the same trap set by the Arab autocrats, who warn: "If you don't want the IS, you'll have to make do with us". Meanwhile, repressive Arab regimes and militant Islamists are actually two sides of the same coin. They are mutually dependent, justifying their existence based on the threat posed by the other side. The Arab autocrats are not a bulwark against radical and militant Islamists; they are the reason they exist in the first place and why they are so successful.
© Qantara.de 2015
Translated from the German by Jennifer Taylor